Hitchin Town may well have won one of the biggest battles in their long, proud history, but now their own personal battleground could be changing.

The Canaries’ Top Field home is in some ways, a unique environment to watch football in the modern day game.

With its leafy backdrop, currently cascading down on to the pitch as Autumn draws ever closer, the wooden benches that host their passionate support, and the bright yellow and green colouring adding vibrancy around the ground.

And memories of a sepia-toned yesteryear never seem too far away.

This is an evocative setting for the drama of non-league football to take place.

Up until early 2015 there was a real danger that the club would be forced out of their beloved home.

A scheme to build a supermarket on the site were floated, the land owners seemed willing to listen to what was on offer.

A century of football at Top Field was at risk.

The local community rallied, a march took place, a statement had been made.hitchin

That statement led to a new twenty five year lease being agreed, a break clause allowing a supermarket to be built on the site had been removed.

Yet that was only half of the battle that faced the Canaries supporters.

The ground, for all of its positives, is in need of regeneration, improvements simply have to be made.

That is the challenge facing the club and it is a challenge that Managing Director Andy Melvin believes could lead to the club moving from the ground after all.

“It was massive and it’s the longest lease we have ever it” he said

“It gives us an opportunity to build for our future and to plan with greater scrutiny.

“We are doing a feasibility study on two propositions at the moment.  One is to hopefully stay at Top Field, the other is to move to the Priory School in Hitchin.

“That is less than a mile away from the current site and it is one possibility that we have to consider”

For all of the talk of a move away from their Top Field home, Melvin believes that staying at the ground is the club’s “first choice”.

However, he conceded that a move away has to be considered for financial reasons, but insisted that whatever decision was finally taken would be done so with the best interests of the club at heart.

“Of course, it’s obvious that staying here at Top Field is our first choice.

“It was unbelievable to see the support we received as the battle for Top Field went on.

“The whole town got behind us, not just the supporters of the football club, this was the whole town supporting us.

“The march brought thousands on to the streets. 

“This is one of the oldest football clubs around, not just in non-league, it means a lot to the town and the club in many ways represents what this town is about.

“It is that important and when we needed them the town were there for us.

“But now, more than ever, football is about finance, it’s not just the club’s decision.

“We have to work with the trustees, they have duties as trustees of a charity and we know they have to do right by themselves as well.

“But what we need to do is get the study done, analyse the results, then go back to the public and see what we can and can’t do

Whatever we do will be in the best interests of Hitchin Town Football Club”

The club’s relationship with landowners, the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust, will be key in whatever path is taken.

And although Melvin was unwilling to discuss what fate may have lay in wait for the Canaries if a new lease had not been agreed, he does believes that a brighter future, cemented by a good relationship with the landlords, is on the horizon.

“I don’t think it’s worth going into what might have happened if the lease hadn’t been agreed.

“It wouldn’t have been good but the most important thing is that we are in control of our own destiny, we know where we want to move forward and we have a good relationship with our landlords.

“So we just have to be positive, don’t look back, we need to look forward to a bright future for Hitchin Town Football Club”

Interview and Images: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)

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