Sunday, March 7
Chester-le-Street, UK



An interview with Joe Burlison

There is a quiet murmur around Chester-le-Street Town’s clubhouse as Joe Burlison sits down to talk.

Quiet, unassuming, but with a work ethic that is second-to-none, the Cestrians chairman is the heartbeat of the club.

He often blends into the background at their Moor Park home, but he is playing a central role in putting together the plans that he hopes will take the club to a new level. He is patient, to a point.

“We have 22 youth teams, an under-23 team and the men’s team,”  he proudly explains.

“We are trying to get something like that for the ladies, where we have a first-team, and we want a development team and then age groups below that.

“We have always carried young players and that has been difficult, because some players have had to adjust to a tough league in the Northern League.

“We are never going to be a club that will pay the players, so we cut our cloth to suit our situation.

“That won’t change, unless we find a local millionaire that wants to come in.

“What we have now is sustainable.

“If players want to play football come here, if they want money – we say go somewhere else.

“We stick with that philosophy and we know that the young players are the future of our club.

The Cestrians future plans all revolve around the long-term welfare of the club.

No lavish spending, no bold claims, just a focus on youth development and clever investment.

That investment will come from funding pots and will help the club develop on and off-the-pitch.

“The long-term future of this club is all that matters,” says Burlison.

“I’ve been in this league for a long time and I’ve seen clubs rise and fall.

“We say you can have any player, anywhere, as long as the club still exists.

“That is what we are about, the club always has to come first.

“We have some quotes for the development of the buildings here, we are negotiating.

“That isn’t easy, but we are working with the Football Foundation, the Premier League and the local council.

“We are busy negotiating quotes for a new main building overlooking the pitch, so we need some new costings, because there is a disparity between what we have and what the quotes have been.”

Switching the focus to on-field matters, it has been a promising start to the season for the Cestrians.

Colin Wake’s side were sat in third place in the Northern League’s second-tier ahead of Saturday’s home game against Brandon United.

The momentum of last season’s Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup win – their first trophy since securing the Division Two title in 1998 – has carried on into the first half of this campaign.

Burlison has never hidden from the fact that he is proud to be part of the Northern League family and he wants to see his club back in Division One.

There are concerns that the league will be weakened by the Football Association’s restructuring of the non-league pyramid.

The future is shrouded in mystery, as club’s call for clarity from the leaders of the national game. Burlison is wary of what the next few years will hold, but insisted he will ensure that his club are ready to deal with whatever is thrown their way by the FA’s top brass. He said

“Ideally, we want to be back in Division One, but we never set targets here.

“We do want to get back up and hopefully we can do that at some point.

“What that division will look like, who knows? But it’s out of the Northern League’s hands.

“Clubs will go, clubs have gone, both through promotion or by going bust.

“We just don’t know how next season will look, all we can do is look after ourselves.

“The league will survive, it is a strong league.

“We will need to find clubs, we will need some lateral movement.

“But the picture is unclear, that’s the reason we are trying to develop things here.

“We will get ourselves in order and ensure that we are ready for whatever is thrown at us in the future.”

The murmur in the clubhouse is now a din, but that won’t stop Joe Burlison going quietly about his business at Moor Park.

by Mark Carruthers

(article first published in the Sunday Sun on Sunday 16th December)

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