As Hanwell Town begin life as a Step Three football club for the first time in their 100-year history on Saturday, manager Chris Moore is confident his players will hold their own in the Southern Premier League South.
Founded in 1920 by Newcastle natives who were working on the railways around the area, the club, who are nicknamed the Geordies and wear black and white striped shirts, have been a long-time staple of non-League football around the west London area.
Playing predominantly at Step Four and Five of the football pyramid for much of the last 50 years, the club finally clambered their way into uncharted territory in May by beating Chertsey Town 3-2 after extra time, despite being reduced to 10 men, in the Isthmian South Central Division play-off final.
That victory ensured Hanwell will play in the same division as well-established local outfits such as Hayes & Yeading, Harrow Borough and Hendon for the first time – something Moore said is source of huge pride for the club.
“For a club like Hanwell to be in Step Three is massive,” Moore said.
“We’ve always been in the shadow of those teams and always lost out on players when we were competing with them for signings.
“Hopefully people can now see what we are doing, the facilities we have got and players will want to come here.”
Like all non-League clubs, Covid hit Hanwell hard financially and also cost them the chance of promotion in 2020 when the pandemic brought football to a halt.
“We should have gone up two years ago, but for Covid,” Moore said.
“We were second in the league, two points off the leaders with two games in hand and were on a real roll and felt like we were going up.
“So it’s been a long-time coming. But when I came in to the club in 2019 they were 17th in the league and I think the highest they had ever finished was seventh so it’s been a real journey but we’ve finally managed to go up and the whole club is buzzing.”
Hanwell open their season against Truro City before making the trip to Yate Town in Gloucestershire seven days later for one of several long trips in a division that contains teams from Tiverton, Plymouth, Merthyr Tydfil, Weston-super-Mare, Salisbury and Dorchester.
Moore admits the long-distance away days will be hard for most of his semi-professional squad but something the players are excited by.
“The lads in the squad are looking forward to the challenge of the league, although we know the travelling demands will be huge with all of them working full-time jobs,” he said.
“Most of them haven’t played at the level before but I am confident they can step up.”
Next season Hanwell’s Powerday Stadium in Perivale will also be home to QPR’s Under-23s and B-teams in addition to the women’s side who already play their matches at the ground.
Moore, who is a lifelong QPR fan, said he hopes the club’s new standing will make them an attractive environment for clubs like Rangers, Fulham and Brentford to potentially loan out some of their young players.
He also hopes the offer of half-price entry for QPR season ticket holders for Hanwell matches will help bring some extra revenue to the club.
“It is important for us to have good relationships with these clubs, we are a semi-professional club in west London and there are a lot of semi-professional and professional clubs in this area,” he said.
“If we can build relationships with QPR and also Watford, Brentford, Fulham it is only going to enhance us and maybe even help us get a few more people through the gate which is what we need.”