Meteoric rise for Magpies who want to continue growing the right way
It has been a meteoric rise for the Plaistow Road club from the depths of Division 5 in the West Sussex League when they reformed a Saturday side back in 1998.
They have rocketed up the leagues and now ply their trade in Division 1 of the Sussex County League - their highest level in their 95-year history.
The pitch and facilities at the village-based club have also moved on and are a far cry from the facilities back in 1998.
Floodlights, hard spectator standing around the pitch, dugouts and a 100-seater stand are just a few of the on-field improvements - which have come as a result of significant local fundraising and grant applications from the FA as well as help from Chichester District Council and plenty of the club sponsors.
The pitch at Plaistow Road, a former farmer’s field, is now regarded as one of the best playing surfaces in the County League, the product of groundsman Ben Jeffries’ hard work, which has seen him nominated for a national groundsman of the year award.
t is a great group of people here that are doing things for the right reasons. You cannot achieve the success we have on the resources the club has got without a special culture – and we have that.Barry Hunter
An important ingredient of the club’s success has been to focus on facilities and people and never operating outside of what is affordable.
People shouldn’t be fooled by the club’s village location. A club that benefits from its own ground in picturesque surroundings is run with the disciplines and standards you would expect of any well run senior football club.
Despite a very tight budget it has not hindered their success – regular league promotions, two Centenary Cups, the Malcolm Simmons Cup, twice Intermediate Cup runners-up, County League Division 3 champions, County League Division 2 Cup winners last season and promotion into County 1.
They are currently two-years ahead of a ten-year plan to establish themselves as a Division 1 side, but chairman Barry Hunter is also keen for the club to grow in other ways.
Having been involved at Loxwood for 12 years, the now chairman, has been a player, first-team manager and director of football in that time.
But the 53-year-old former Adidas UK Managing Director is thinking of the long term.
He said: “We want to build a strong foundation that will ensure our long-term sustainability as a senior club. That means adding to our committee, building our local supporter base and attracting more sponsors. From a playing perspective we want to progress our first, reserve and under-18 teams but importantly build on this years’ formation of a Loxwood junior section.
“We want to embrace our local community and attract local families to the club. We do not want to be an elitist club in any way at all. That will require a strong youth programme.
“We want to be a club for our community and whatever your age, gender or ability, there should be a place for you at the club. We are currently the highest ranked local football team outside of Horsham’s first team. That’s a fantastic platform from which we will build.”
This season has seen the Magpies lose just four league games all season and six in all competitions under manager Dave Cocoracchio.
They sit in the top six of Division 1, reached the semi-finals of the Sussex Senior Cup, the final of the Sussex RUR Cup and competed in the FA Vase for the first time ever.
The reserves are top of the County League Reserve Section West and aiming for promotion into the Premier Section, while the under-18 academy is flourishing under manager Mark Beard and recently beat Lewes to win the Sussex Youth Cup.
Hunter added: “The football management team of Dave Cocoracchio (firsts), Matt Camp (reserves) and Mark Beard (under-18s) and the coaching team of Kristian Sorensen, Phil Fitzgerald and Pierre Hazelwood have done an outstanding job with the teams this season.
“Not just because of what has been achieved but the manner it has been achieved. We have a habit of attracting good people who are involved in the club for the right reasons.
“There is a real togetherness about the club, it’s been there since 1998 and it’s not through luck. We like to run our club in a specific way, within our means and amongst good people.
“That’s a philosophy that has run throughout the club, in all areas on and off the pitch, throughout our rise, it’s in our DNA and something as chairman I intend to protect.”
On their rise, Hunter added: “I have to give a lot of praise to our committee, who work incredibly hard and have shown a lot of loyalty and dedication over recent years, George Read, Ray Merridew, Tim Bowers, Mark Obrien, David Lewenden, John Bellamy, Mike Goodman, Adrian Morris and Derek Waterman.
“It is a great group of people here that are doing things for the right reasons. You cannot achieve the success we have on the resources the club has got without a special culture – and we have that.
“We have had lots of excellent support from sponsors along our journey - Victor Gladwish, Roland Branch Builders, John Murray Butchers and more recently AJ Walters Aviation - to whom we are very grateful.”
Next year, Loxwood will play in the FA Cup for the first time and Hunter has not ruled out any ventures further up the football pyramid in the future.
He added: “You can never say never, but one thing is for sure, to do things sustainably, the whole club has to grow together.
“What I do ask is for people to come and visit us, give us a try and see what is happening.”