Around 1,300 turn out for Hitchin Town FC march to save Top Field
- Credit: Archant
An estimated 1,300 walked the streets of Hitchin today in support of Hitchin Town FC’s Save Top Field campaign.
Supporters gathered at Butts Close – opposite the club’s Top Field home in Fishponds Road – and set off at 1pm, walking along Brand Street, Bancroft, Fishponds Road, and then back to Butts Close.
The march was organised to show the strength of feeling in the town about plans to force the club to leave Top Field and move to an out-of-town location, with the current ground being turned into a supermarket.
It has been suggested that if landowners the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust carried out a land swap with developers, the club’s current home could become a supermarket.
Before setting off on the march there were a number of speeches, which included words from Hitchin Town’s Roy Izzard, Councillor Judi Billing and Sky Sports broadcaster Guillem Balague.
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Mr Izzard said: “Save Top Field, save Hitchin Town, save the town of Hitchin. There are massive consequences for the town. How can allowing a supermarket to be built on Top Field show ‘special knowledge’ of Hitchin from the Cow Commoners?”
Mr Balague, who lives in Hitchin, said: “Hitchin Town FC is part of the fabric of this town. We want the Cow Commoners to take to us and take note of the hostility towards the plan. There is a revolution happening in non-league football. Everyone needs to discover the people behind the scenes at HTFC because this campaign is just kicking off.
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“There is a harmony in this town - and a character which draws people here.
“As a football lover I also speak on behalf of Hitchin Town which have played on Top Field since their foundation in the 1860s. They are part of the fabric of the town and have a right to be consulted over the future of their home ground.”
He added: “Let’s go for a walk!”
Councillor Judi Billing said: “We love this town. What we don’t need is Hitchin Town being under threat of having to move. It is a crass decision.
“I was told this deal was done in secret. If a councillor did it we would be lynched.”
Club stalwart and editor of football website Game of the People, Neil Jensen, told the crowd: “No abuse of the Cow Commoners please today.” Which was greeted by hearty laughter from the assembled crowd.
Hitchin Town midfielder Callum Donnelly said: “My grandad, dad, uncle, and two brothers have played and managed this club. I am Hitchin-born and bred – I love this club. Well done to everyone for turning up.”
Hedley the Hedgehog, Hitchin rughby club’s mascot added: “I am very proud to be supporting this campaign. We are a community club supporting another community club.”
Mel Blackmore, captain of Hitchin Town’s women’s team said: “I am here with my young son Lucas to support the march,”
Fan Geoff Wren and his dog Alfie, clad in a Hitchin Town football shirt said: “The support here is indicative of the feeling in the town. Alfie supports it too!”
Propsective Parliamentary Candidate for Hitchin, Rachel Burgin said: “There are a number of issues at stake. Hitchin Town is at the heart of the community.”
Musician Alex Bay, brother of Brit Award winner James Bay played a Bob Marley song which included the lyrics: ‘Don’t let them fool you’ said: “I’m sure some great things have been achieved today. As a Hitchin boy I wish the club all the best.”
Vehicles driving past the march through Hitchin tooted their horns in support, and Christmas shoppers broke into spontaneous applause for the marchers.
The match ended 1-0 to Hitchin against Poole Town with an 89th minute goal by Dan Webb to send the bumper crowd of 1,606 home happy.