Fleetlands chairman Sellstrom: Why time is now right to take this club back into the Wessex League

Chairman Iain Sellstrom is desperate for 2020 to be the year Fleetlands return to the Wessex League fold.

Sunday, 22nd December 2019, 4:48 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd December 2019, 5:14 pm
Fleetlands' Jamie Hall, left, in action during the HPL Cup quarter final loss to Colden Common, Picture: Keith Woodland

The Gosport club’s three-season stay in the Wessex ended in 2006/07 - ironically the year they romped to the third tier title, scoring over 101 goals with AFC Portchester trailing in their slipstream in fourth place.

While the latter are now eyeing the Wessex Premier title and possible promotion to the Southern League, Sellstrom believes the time is right Fleetlands went up from the Hampshire Premier League.

The club have followed Infinity and Stockbridge in officially applying for promotion to the Wessex League. To do that, they will have to finish in the top five and hope there are more places up for grabs than teams who finish above them.

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Fleetlands' Sam Martin in action during the HPL Cup quarter final loss to Colden Common, Picture: Keith Woodland (211219-161)

‘To be honest, I wanted to apply to step 6 (Wessex) last season but we weren’t really ready - we didn’t have all the funding in place, the necessary support,’ Sellstrom explained.

‘This season, we still have a lot of work to do but things are starting to fall into place.

‘We have building work to do to keep the club at step 7 level, so we thought we might as well do the work required for step 6 at the same time.’

Fleetlands need to put up new floodlights, build new officials’ changing rooms and provide new toilets in order to satisfy step 6 grading levels.

Fleetlands' Nathan Gray, right, in action during the HPL Cup quarter final loss to Colden Common, Picture: Keith Woodland

‘The work is unlikely to be done by the March 31 deadline,’ said Sellstrom, ‘but it will be done by the start of next season.

‘To start with, we need to finish in the top five. I think with the expansion of the Wessex Premier there could be some extra spaces available for clubs from our division and elsewhere.’

It is believed four clubs will be promoted from Wessex 1 this season, compared to just two last term.

‘An in ideal world Infinity, ourselves and Stockbridge will all finish in the top five and go up,’ said Sellstrom. ‘Stockbridge have a cracking set-up.

‘Realistically, I don’t think we’re going to finish first or second so the challenge is to finish third or fourth.’

Sellstrom arrived at Lederle Lane in the summer of 2018 after a spell as chairman of Gosport Borough.

Ex-Borough player Danny Thompson was immediately installed as manager, and Fleetlands rose from 13th in 2017/18 to fifth last season.

After Thompson left to take over at Infinity, Sellstrom brought in Rich Bessey from Paulsgrove as boss.

‘Richard has been a breath of fresh air,’ said the chairman. ‘He’s brought in some great players who are Wessex standard - like Tommy Woodward, Luke Heard and Sean Snelling.

‘Those players have bought into our dream of going up and if we don’t it could be hard for us to keep hold of them.’

Promotion this term would ensure Sellstrom’s ambitions for Fleetlands remain on course.

‘When I came in I had a five-year plan,’ he revealed. ‘That was to get up into the Wessex within two years and be consolidated in the Wessex Premier within the five.

‘This is a great club, but there hadn’t been much investment for years.

‘I’m just trying to inject a bit more ambition.’