FC Halifax Town director Bobby Ham has lifted the lid on the highs and lows of being involved with the Shaymen, writes Rob Glover.
It is almost 10 years since the club, then Halifax Town AFC, was plunged into administration during the 2007-08 season.
Since then Ham has been involved in bringing a well-loved club back from the Northern Premier League’s Division One North to England’s fifth tier, the Vanarama National League. The Shaymen are currently under the management of Billy Heath.
Ham scored 156 career goals in a professional career spent largely at Bradford Park Avenue, Bradford City, Preston and Rotherham before coming to the aid of the reformed Shaymen, who have seen four promotions and an FA Trophy win in their nine competitive seasons.
Having been a member of the board at Bradford City, Ham and chairman David Bosomworth recognised the opportunity at Halifax. He said: “We decided we’d like to have a go on our own and Halifax were in trouble.
“Over the years we’ve had plenty of ups and one or two downs.”
The scale of the task in hand was clear at a ground that has been graded at Football League standard year upon year.
Ham said: “When we took over there was nothing, just a blank piece of paper saying we had a football club.
“When we came in, if we wanted a notepad we had to go out and buy one, we had to buy a pen, we had to buy a typewriter.”
However, the long-term target had already been set. Ham said: “The ultimate ambition was to get Halifax back in the Football League. Unfortunately the authorities put us down three divisions, which was a sad, sad blow.”
After an under whelming first campaign under Jim Vince, Ham recalled: “Out of the blue we got a contact from Neil Aspin and I said straight away ‘he’s got to be the one.’
“He had six years with us and did exceptionally well. We got promotion in his first two seasons.”
Ham alluded to the tireless efforts of those at the helm, saying: “We’ve run it as a proper business and we’ve made a profit every year. The directors work for nothing.”
Current Leicester City and England front man Jamie Vardy continued his rise to prominence, having been watched at Stocksbridge by Halifax.
“The directors, three of us, put the money together to buy Vardy,” said Ham.
At the end of an astonishing first term for the striker, the club were unable to prevent his transfer to Fleetwood Town.
He said: “We didn’t want to sell him. It wasn’t the money we wanted, it was the player.”
Rob Brown, a Town supporter for more than 30 years, recalled: “It’s been good mixing with fans from other clubs that have a real passion for their community. For them it’s not about progression up the leagues, it’s just about playing football.”
He said people at the club were approachable and the club had done a great job bouncing back so quickly, aided by improved attendances.
“It’s becoming more and more difficult being a part-time club in a league where most are full time, but the fans will always stick with the club.”
The FA Cup has always provided opportunities for giant killings.
Halifax faced Ham’s former club and Yorkshire rivals Bradford City three years ago in what was a memorable occasion for the ex-Bantams striker.
“I had a lot of good times there, but I’d still have given anything to beat them,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we were beaten in a close game (2-1) but it’s nice to see them doing well.”
Alongside their league successes, the Shaymen tasted victory at the home of English football in the 2015–16 FA Trophy Final against Grimsby. Despite this coming at the end of a campaign concluded by relegation, Ham still regards this as his proudest achievement.
He said: “To be sat in the director’s box, where the Queen and all of royalty sit, was phenomenal. It was always my biggest ambition to play at Wembley.”