Paul Bliss is celebrating 30 years` involvement with Vanarama National League South club Weston-super-Mare.
A couple of events have been arranged to help celebrate Bliss`s milestone.
He explains: “I was approached by the Club to help them out in early 1986, the pitch was suffering from drainage problems so they were having to play many of their home games at away grounds. The Western League required that all pitches had floodlights and they Weston didn’t have any.
“The club had moved from Langford Road to Woodspring Park in 1982 and had overspent on the ground leaving many suppliers owed money, including the brewery. At the point I joined the club and signed the agreement all debts were settled, the pitch drainage was sorted and floodlights installed.
“The club was then run by around 50 members, with decisions being collectively made by them, so this agreement took over 6 months to conclude. “Once finally completed the way the club was controlled changed to being made up of a Board of Directors and I, as chairman, appointed the board. “During these negotiations the members had requested a greyhound track running around the pitch, although this didn’t happen as I didn’t think it helps the atmosphere at a football club.
“Harry Thomas was the manager playing in the Western League, and the club set targets, including to own our own ground, as at the time the club had only 26 years left on a lease. As well as this goal, the club also aimed to gain promotion to the Conference, as well as reaching the FA Trophy Final at Wembley.
“The first suggestion made to the manager was to sign Matt Lazenby and Paul Elson and I am very happy to see that they are both going to be playing on the 23rd in the Testimonial match.
“It took five years to turn the team around from a relegation side to win promotion from the Great Mills Western League to the Beazer Homes Southern League. The manager by this time was John Ellener with Peter Amos as his assistant. Peter Amos soon became the manager and I am happy that he is returning here as the Weston Legend manager. He was succeeded by Lenn Ashurst and John Relish.
Then Frank Gregan was appointed and he was able to push for further promotion to the Southern Premier, with some of his major signings included Stuart Slater, Marc McGregor, Marc McKeever who I hope will all be in action on the 23rd.
“During Frank Gregan`s time at the club we moved to the Woodspring Stadium, with the lease for the old ground being sold to Barratts. Our new site was purchased on Winterstoke Road, with the new ground costing £2million being funded by the monies made from the ground sale, myself and the Football Foundation.
This was 12 years ago and at the same time the Conference League was restructured to form a Conference North, South and Premier, we had to finish in the top eleven and we finished tenth, which meant that we were in the Conference South League, and where we have stayed ever since. It has been difficult in this league as there are many big clubs with big budgets and on several occasions we have narrowly avoided relegation due to technicalities.
“Over the previous 30-year period I have supported the club financially to the tune of around £100,000 per year, but we understand that the club cannot continue to rely solely on my investment or that of another investor. With this in mind there are a considerable number of plans that are being put in place to continue to grow the club and for, at a minimum, to remain at its current level standard or take the step to move to the next level within its own business.
“During the last ten years the club has grown by adding all age groups from 7-19 and now a ladies` team, we own our ground and we are shortly embarking on the building of a 4G pitch. The support for the club is growing and my other two aims of National League football – and I mean National League – and an FA Trophy final are still my ambition.
“It will be great to see many old friends at the Testimonial match on the 23rd July and even at the Golf day at Weston Golf Club on the 22nd July. I think it will be a great event with many Manchester United Legends and Weston Legends playing each other.
“All the money raised from these two days will be go towards Weston AFC”.