Dale Stokes, right, with former co-manager Craig Dickson is upbeat about Downham’s plans.

FOOTBALL: What started as a fundraising appeal to help Downham Town spruce up their facilities has turned into an effort just to keep their heads above water.

A Gofundme page was set up by the club last week to help in the difficult times brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. 

They have set a target of £7,500 and by Tuesday had passed the £600 mark.

Team manager Dale Stokes admits the club needs help to support the future of the club during these unprecedented times.

“The loss of earnings is rather high,” he said. “We have to pay a rental on our pitch every year, as we don’t own it. 

“We have missed out on our guest speaker evening with ex-professional Ray Parlour and the annual kids tournament and various other pre-season fundraisers. 

“There is a fair bit that needs doing at the club, which was one of the main reasons we were doing the Ray Parlour evening.

“Suddenly we have gone from planning a spruce up of facilities, to worrying that we can actually continue to run the club.” 

Downham had led the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League First Division North table for much of the curtailed season and were well in the promotion mix when the competition was cancelled in March. 

Stokes, now solo manager of the team after co-boss Craig Dickson left the club by mutual consent, remains upbeat. 

His new assistant, Ryan Charalambous, was at the club last season and the pair have identified work to do and plans to take place if Downham are to be title challengers again for the new season.

Stokes said: “It was a massive shame when Craig decided to step away from our joint venture. I felt we worked really well together and would have enjoyed another season but I fully understand his reasons. 

“Ryan will be continuing his coaching role and undertaking an assistant role as well.

“It’s hard to know what to expect. We have a strong squad and will be hoping to be well in the mix again.

“Certainly there is some unfinished business with regards to promotion and the way it ended.”

Stokes said the long break from the sport is giving teams chance to improve their squads, hopefully adding to his own, after the cancelled season brought them some success.     

“There have been some interesting player movements across the league, so it seems the reprieve that teams were given has encouraged them to go for it.

“Myself and Ryan are under no illusions at all that it’s going to be tougher next season. 

“I wouldn’t say we were a surprise last time around but I don’t think many outside of our club expected us to do as well as we did.

“We have lost a couple of lads, which is a shame of course, but it’s all part of it. We will be adding a few and aim to be as strong as we possibly can ready for the restart, whenever that may be.”

To donate to the club’s appeal, visit the Gofundme page at  tinyurl.com/DTFC20