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New chairman Richard Barlow aims to build on Histon's firm foundations

New Histon chairman Richard Barlow. Picture: Howard Wilkins (37451410)
New Histon chairman Richard Barlow. Picture: Howard Wilkins (37451410)

Spartan, Delphian, Athenian, it could be a roll call for a new gladiators film, but the one missing from the list probably gives away the true subject matter.

The missing link is the Eastern Counties, and by completing the jigsaw it perhaps helps to reveal the list of leagues in which Richard Barlow grew up watching Histon.

Having lived up in Histon & Impington from the age of seven until he went to university at 18, Barlow became a fan of the club.

“I used to go down there with various other little boys who were eight, nine, 10 years old which was back in the days before New Road Histon was built,” he recalls.

“The pitch was at 90 degrees to what it is now. The stand was a big white building a bit like a racecourse stand – and I remember some of the players.

“When I first watched the club, I think our biggest player, the player I liked the most was a player called Mo Thurston. He was a centre forward.

“Years ago, his son played for Histon as well, but Mo goes back to the early ’50s and he was one of my early heroes when I was little.

“Another early hero at Histon was Spud Driver, who was another very fine player.”

Work, which was in the electricity industry and culminated in being chief executive of the industry’s pension scheme, took him away from Cambridgeshire and so visits to watch the Stutes became fleeting.

At different stages of his life, Barlow was based around the country but as he had family still in the area, he would at least get a couple of visits a season to Bridge Road.

It was not until retirement that he was able to become a more frequent visitor to matches, and was soon one of the founding members of the Histon Independent Supporters’ Trust, acting as secretary.

“An open meeting was advertised, I went down and the consequence of that was that I became one of the founder committee of HIST,” Barlow explains.

“I had a lot to do with setting it up as I did all the constitutional paperwork and such like.”

He was the HIST representative on the board at the time, but when his late wife became ill, he had to step away from both roles.

However, Barlow rejoined the board of directors in 2018, and was among familiar faces who had been part of HIST, which had since been disbanded.

That is perhaps a telling reason behind what he hopes to build on from the foundations set by predecessor John Hall.

“To have a successful football club, you have to have fans, sponsors and volunteers,” he says.

“If you can do the right things to get the fans, sponsors and volunteers and the economics of the club in a healthy state, then I think the football follows from that.

“To have all kinds of dreams and ambitions of what you can achieve on the pitch, if you haven’t got the number of fans at the turnstiles, haven’t got the number of sponsors or volunteers, then you’re never going to get anywhere.

“My focus is actually not on saying I insist that we get to level X within Y years. What I’m more concerned about is making sure we have the number of sponsors so that all the boards are sponsored, we have reliable inflows of cash and we’re able to do something for our sponsors to make sure they enjoy their experience at the club.

“I want to ensure that we have enough people coming through the turnstiles.

“We need more volunteers. The more time you spend at the football club and get involved in the nitty gritty of a football club the more dozens and dozens of tasks that you see someone has to perform in the week – it’s absolutely incredible.

“It’s about getting volunteers to want to do all of those things.

“They are what running a football club is actually about when you’re a member of the board or the chairman, and trying to get all of those things done in an orderly way.

“I believe that the football will follow from that providing you’ve got the right people like Lance Key, for example, actually making the decisions as to what happens on the pitch.”

It is not just the men’s first team though.

Barlow wants to see all parts of the club heading in the same direction, and that includes the youth and ladies’ teams.

“Histon have always had the aspiration of having an academy of youngsters that leads through to a scholarship that leads to first-team football,” he says.

“Sometimes that has worked successfully, and sometimes it hasn’t worked particularly successfully, but that is the structure that we want to have so to the greatest extent that you can you are bringing through people into your first team who are homegrown. We have done that over the seasons.

“As far as the ladies are concerned, we want to be running a ladies reserve team and a first team.

“In an ideal world, we would like to have a ladies scholarship so that girls are coming through in the same way as boys.”

There are also bigger infrastructure ambitions, and that includes a 3G pitch at Bridge Road.

Barlow has devoted a lot of time studying the prospects, but concedes that post the pandemic, the funding available from bodies may be more limited now than it was six months ago.

But it is something for the board to consider in the longer term.

“At the moment, I can only say we’re exploring it,” says Barlow. “Immediately prior to the shutdown, I would say the enthusiasm and interest with which we were exploring it was probably greater than it had been for some considerable time.

“Then lockdown has come along and has obviously put a brake on doing most things to do with football.”

For now, Barlow will just be hoping that – when the new season is given the green light – Histon are able to take on another one of those ‘gladiators’, Isthmian, and develop on their first campaign back at the level.

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