History-making Portsmouth councillor targets Wessex League after taking over as Paulsgrove FC chairman
New Paulsgrove chairman George Madgwick is determined to oversee the club’s return to the Wessex League - ideally as early as next year.
Madgwick is confident his ability to wear two hats can help to put in place facilities that can host step 6 football at Marsden Road.
Grove, along with Infinity and Bush Hill, have been one of the three standout performers in recent Hampshire Premier League seasons.
But while the other two clubs are now experiencing Wessex Division 1 football for the first time, Grove can only look on enviously.
Ongoing vandalism problems at their ground haven’t helped, leading to two first team games being postponed in recent months, and were part of the reason boss Wayne Grant tendered his resignation just over a week ago - a decision that took the new chairman ‘off guard’.
Grant had been acting as a temporary chairman as well as first team manager, following the decision by Grove stalwart Wayne Johnson to stand down as chairman earlier this year.
But Madgwick is hopeful the current state of flux in terms of the management team can be sorted soon - quickly followed by off-field progress.
Madgwick, who has donated to the club over the past two seasons, made Portsmouth City Council (PCC) history earlier this year. Standing for election as a Paulsgrove ward councillor, he was the first ever ‘independent’ candidate to win a place on the council.
Freely admitting ‘I didn’t expect to win’, he has already put his political connections to good use by persuading council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson to visit Marsden Road recently.
‘We explained to him what improvements were needed in order for the club to go up (to the Wessex),’ said Madgwick.
‘The team has been good enough to go up for years but the stumbling block has been the improvements needed to meet the FA regulations.
‘The council are taking a very proactive approach now.
‘We have recently put up a security fence around the changing room area, and security cameras will also be put up.
‘With my councillor’s hat on, we need to keep the through path at the ground - it is a public right of way - and we need to reassure people that it will be safe.
‘With my chairman’s hat on, we will need to show we are compliant with the FA rules.’
In order to be allowed into the Wessex, Grove will need to erect floodlights and install a fence right around the pitch.
Madgwick believes this can be paid for without the need to apply for grants from the Football Foundation.
There is cash sitting in the Paulsgrove Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) fund that he is hopeful could be used.
The CIL is a fund that property developers pay into when building houses in an area.
‘It’s not taxpayers money,’ said Madgwick. ‘We will look into community fundraising and applying to the CIL - at this stage we’re not looking at FA grants.’
CIL funds are distributed to help local projects and Madgwick declared: ‘Paulsgrove FC is really important to the community.
‘The players all are proud to play for the club - they are a strong side and they wear their hearts on their sleeves.
‘They play for the shirt, they really do - they have a passion for the club and I’m confident they will all stay.
‘I’m hopeful Wayne (Grant) will have a role to play behind the scenes, because he’s so passionate about the club as well. He’s irreplaceable really. He’s been an integral part of the club and I hope he remains an integral part.
‘There is also a Paulsgrove youth club where the chairman Chaz Mitchell has done an absolutely incredible job.
‘But in the past we’ve lost talented young players to Baffins, Moneyfields, Gosport, because we haven’t had our own facilities.’
Grove have been in the Wessex League before - spending a three-season spell between 2004/05 to 2006/7.
They won the third tier title in the middle season - finishing above AFC Portchester, who they completed the double over (2-0 away and 1-0 at home) - and were founder members of the HPL in 2007/08 after the Wessex had folded their Division 2 (leaving a Premier and Division 1).
Jason House, Ben Burgess and Lee Lodge were Grove’s top scorers when they won the Division 2 title in 2005/06, pipping Laverstock by three points.
In recent times, Steve Hird managed Grove to the Hampshire Premier League title and county Intermediate Cup double in 2017/18.
Grant took over ahead of the 2019/20 season, with Grove second in the table - having played more games than anyone else in their division - when the campaign was null and voided due to lockdown.
Grove won nine and drew one of their 10 games in 2020/21 and were considered title favourites by many pundits when the season was curtailed.
Darren Lambe, Kevin Doherty and Leigh Ewing have been put in charge of the team for the Bank Holiday weekend double against Winchester Castle (Saturday, away) and Lyndhurst (Monday, home).
All three of those have taken on committee roles as well, joining Vic Collins and Jim Garcia. Madgwick said the club will be looking for ‘two or three more in the forthcoming months to bolster our team.’
Grove have advertised on their social media channels for Grant’s permanent replacement.