Guest blog 5: You can change the name, but not the allegiance

Ebbsfleet_United_F.C._(logo)

It’s another guest blog this evening as we power on through May and this one comes from another Ebbsfleet Utd supporter Andy Yerlett, who focuses on when Gravesend & Northfleet jumped on the local bandwagon and became Ebbsfleet Utd. Here is his story and his opinion on the change:

In May 2007, the Board of Directors agreed a change of name for Gravesend & Northfleet FC to the present,  Ebbsfleet United. Was this a good or bad thing for the club and what effect does it impact upon the club today? In order to fully understand its impact, the history of the club needs to be looked at first.

Gravesend & Northfleet  was born out of an amalgamation between Gravesend United and Northfleet United 61 years earlier. Both sides had achieved a modicum of success with Northfleet being a nursery side for up and coming Tottenham Hotspur players, such as future managerial great, Bill Nicholson and a  young Ted Ditchburn being just two of many stars of the future, gracing Stonebridge Road.  The end of the Second World War saw both sides in dire straits. Gravesend having some managerial and playing staff intact but no ground and Northfleet having a decent ground with no  personnel. An amalgamation was the obvious choice.  Success in the 50’s then gave way to a rollercoaster of ups and downs in the following decades.

Gravesend & Northfleet supporters were used to changes in direction as the club had decided to move from the Southern League to the Isthmian League ten years earlier, but it was fair to say the name change was not met with universal acclaim.  The supporters, myself included,  were not happy at the lack of consultation.  However, after the rationale was explained, it became clear that the board had acted in the club’s best interests.  Ebbsfleet actually exists, it’s not a figment of the HighSpeed Links Imagination! And the football ground is situated within its environs, so the name has not just been conjured up, There were plans in place to build housing in the area for up to 40,000 people, and obviously the links with the railway station gave ample opportunity for the club to capitalize on its commercial potential.

Personally, although not happy, I could see and understand the need for a name change. I’m not sure how permanent this change would have been, but events both on and off the field in late  2007 where the MyFootballClub (MYFC) take over of the club produced an immediate upsurge in support of around  28,000 at its peak. These “new fans,” and the subsequent winning of the FA Trophy meant that the club was now identified positively as Ebbsfleet United and not “good old Gravesend & Northfleet.” The hardcore of 1,000 to 1,500 supporters really had no choice but to accept.

Over the years the name has settled more easily with these supporters, myself included. It helps that the club is mostly referred to as “The Fleet,”  The continuing ups
and downs on and off the pitch have really meant that most of us are happy just to have a club, especially playing at its highest level for many years. Commercially, I feel the club may not have not made the most of its commercial potential with a previously lucrative sponsorship with the railway station falling by the wayside as an example.

However, with  new and dynamic backroom staff being employed by the present owner. This is an avenue I feel may be explored again. The club, with its Ebbsfleet handle,  is now very much part of the community . This will only be enhanced by the fact that the building of Ebbsfleet Garden Village, with its huge potential fanbase, is now beginning to take place. Ebbsfleet United, as a name at least, is here to stay all the time a club is based in the area. Would I, personally, prefer to have seen the Gravesend & Northfleet name remain as it was? Absolutely yes, but then I think I may be very much in the minority these days.

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