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Westfield Football Club was formed in 1911 before the Great War. Through a true love for the game and a small community that cared for the club, Westfield FC has grown from a tiny club with its roots firmly embedded in park football to the club it is today, playing in the Sussex County League Division Two, which is Step 6 on the non league pyramid. Westfield football club represents everything that is good about this game we all love so much, but due to an incident in the early hours of Sunday 20th September 2009 the club became literally a pile of ashes and found itself facing its toughest battle to date. In the early hours of an average Sunday morning, in an incident that remains as suspected arson; the club was destroyed by fire. The entire club house and changing-rooms were burnt to the ground, taking with it the heart of the club we all adore and the hub of a small community. The flames destroyed everything with an indiscriminate hand, taking with them not just the four walls of the football club but all the history and memories that lined its walls; from plaques and trophies to a pair of football boots from a member of one of the original teams. All of it destroyed along with the wall of photographs on which hung a team photo of nearly every team that has worn the yellow and green of ‘The Parishioners’. One thing survived the fire. I’m not an overly superstitious man and I can’t remember the last time I went to church, but sometimes something’s happen that make you stop and think. 3 Years ago on the evening of the 8th August, after a preseason friendly, one of our players, Graeme Kempster, a young man aged 23 with his entire life in front of him, was tragically killed in a car crash, only 500 yards from his home. The incident rocked us all, as friends, as players, as a club and a community. Graeme was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known. A warrior on the pitch and a true gentlemen off it. After Graeme’s death we retired his number. A six shirt with his name on it would forever hang in a frame in the club as a memorial to him but more importantly for us, his original shirt, hung in the home dressing room as a reminder to us all of what he gave to us all, what he left behind and in a way what we owe to him every time we set foot on a pitch. We’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a tear in all our eyes when co-manager Duncan Jones came out of the wreckage of our club, holding the only thing that had survived the flames, Kempsters shirt. Our club lied in tatters, a pile of ashes on the Parish Field where our beloved club used to be. But here’s the thing, I say our club lay in tatters, but in truth it didn’t – our ground was in tatters and yes we were in a precarious situation – but the ground was not our club. Westfield FC wasn’t a pile of ashes, Westfield is the players and committee who work so tirelessly free of charge, donating their precious time and money to make the place what it is. We are one of the few teams at this level who do not pay their players, something that makes keeping the squad together a challenge each year. The money that is paid at even this level of the game is staggering. However, the players that remain as part of Westfield  Football Club do it for the same reasons that have kept Tony and Duncan here despite offers over the year to step back up the leagues. Coming back to Westfield reminded them both of why they fell in love with the game in the first place. There were none of the pressures that come with playing for money and the absence of it and the level footing it put all the players on meant they could all look at each other and know they are at the club for the same reason – to win football matches for the club, for the team and for their friends. It sounds like such a simple sentiment and something that should be present in any football team but sadly it’s not always the case. So where did the fire leave Westfield? Prior to the fire plans were already in place for Westfield to move to a new ground just across the road, which would mean the club would meet the necessary ground grading requirements and be able to take the club up into the Ryman league and then on to who knows where. The fire at the old ground didn’t change this, but it left the club in a precarious situation. The new ground was and remains within touching distance but we needed to find a way to survive until then and make sure the fire didn’t derail a dream that is finally almost within sight. In essence we needed to raise funds and quickly to help us get through the season and meet our commitments to the league. Thanks to the tireless efforts of an amazing committee, due to the incredible generosity of the local footballing and business community, the club survived. A temporary clubhouse is now in place, open and functioning, and new memories are beginning to decorate its walls. The new ground remains tantalisingly out of reach still but with the incredible passion that drives this club I have no doubt that very soon we will find football moving off the Parish Field and over onto The Westfield Downs Project. Kempster’s shirt in a way was a sign. Westfield survived, Westfield rose from the ashes, coming back stronger for the trials it has had to overcome.


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