How a millionaire, ex-Premier League stars and R. Kelly put Billericay on the map

Glitz and glamour and not words usually used to describe non-league football in England.

However, Billericay Town FC in the Isthmian League, the seventh tier of English football, have used celebrity and a bit of viral internet stardom to become one of the most well known sides you've never seen play.

It was the video of new club owner and coach Glenn Tamplin getting his players revved up for the Isthmian League Cup final by singing R. Kelly song The World’s Greatest together which really introduced Billericay Town FC to football fans across the globe. 

Incidentally they won that Cup final against Tonbridge Angels 8-3.

But well before then the club had already begun their rapid rise.

A change of ownership in December kick-started the turnaround of the tiny semi-professional club based in the Essex town of Billericay, 48 kilometres north east of London.

Multi-millionaire steel mogul Tamplin purchased the side and didn't hold back in injecting his wealth, while also calling in favours from some of his well known friends to help with the rejuvenation of the club. 

Tamplin, who is also the caretaker coach of the side after the resignation of previous gaffer Craig Edwards in March, signed former Liverpool and England defender Paul Konchesky as well as former Tottenham midfielder and now Celebrity Big Brother housemate Jamie O'Hara to add some extra star power to his team.

While the move is a big step down in quality and wages for the former Premier League pair, they say their decision to sign with the non-league club was about much more.

"For me it's a stepping stone back into football," said O'Hara, 30, who is returning to the pitch after serious injury and early departures from clubs Fulham and Gillingham led to a stay in the Big Brother house in January.

"I've never been motivated by money."

It was a sentiment shared by his new Billericay teammate Konchesky who joins the team after a career which has included stints at Liverpool, West Ham, Leicester City, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham.

"I'm here because it is a new challenge for me," the 35-year-old former England defender said. 

"It's something that I want to get my teeth into, starting from where we are now and hopefully getting into the Football League." 

Celebrity Big Brother is not the club's only link to reality television.

Former The Only Way is Essex star Mark Wright is said to be about to purchase a 20 per cent share in the club and played an influential role in the recruitment of Konchesky and O'Hara.

Last week after the video of the pre-game sing along went viral,  Billericay Town FC was the 15th most talked about football team in the world on social media such was the response to Tamplin's unusual motivational method.

In an interview with The Mirror, Tamplin said his vision for the club is much bigger than two minutes of internet fame and hopes to have Billericay in the Football League within six seasons. 

“I grew up on a council estate and I started with nothing,” said Tamplin, who admitted his only qualifications for managing a football team are “life experience, bouncing back from adversity and making people believe in themselves.

“I am not doing this for a hobby, I am not just genuine about Billericay Town becoming a Football League club – I am obsessed with it."

Tamplin has backed up his words with his money. He has poured £22,000-a-week ($36,000 AUD) into the club's wage bill while also pledging a £2 million ($3.3 million AUD) overhaul of the club's home ground New Lodge.

The upgrade is set to include two 4G pitches and a stand for the disabled named after local boy Harry Parker who suffers from cerebral palsy and is about to undergo major surgery which Tamplin has also contributed £75,000 ($124,000 AUD) towards.

Billericay Town FC

Crowd numbers at New Lodge are proof Billericay locals are buying into Tamplin's revolution at the club with more than 1000 fans regularly filling the stands, a big improvement on last season's average crowd of 200. 

Tamplin stresses his financial assistance for the club can only stretch so far and he expects the club, players and supporters to match his enthusiasm as he looks to build a lasting legacy.

“It is not a bottomless pit of money,” he said to newspaper the Basildon Standard.

“I expect people to give their best. I have money but values and morals are more important. Money comes last.

“This is a legacy and these guys have the chance to be the guys on the board in the clubhouse that people will remember was the start.

“I have a good gut-feeling about this. The energy around the club lights me up and it makes me glassy-eyed. This is going to work.”

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Have a story or comment? Contact Us

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Watch nowOn Demand
Follow SBS Sport
5 min read
Published 17 April 2017 at 11:28am
By Nick Houghton
Source: SBS