SPENNYMOOR TOWN play the biggest game in their history when they take on Chorley for a place in the National League tomorrow, but their owner and saviour, Brad Groves, will be nowhere to be seen.

“I’ve always been very superstitious,” said Groves, who took charge of Spennymoor in 2009 after injury wrecked a promising youth football career. “We’ve played in two finals during my time here, and I haven’t been able to make either of them. We won both games, so when we won the semi-final against Brackley, I told Jason (Ainsley) I wouldn’t be going to the final. Let’s hope it’s a hat-trick without me.”

When Groves took over Spennymoor a decade ago, the club was barely fit for the Northern League let alone the Conference. Having been born from the embers of Spennymoor United, Town were on the brink of bankruptcy, with their Brewery Field home in a state of considerable disrepair.

Since then, the transformation both on and off the pitch has been remarkable. With Groves pumping in a huge amount of his own money, and Ainsley overseeing matters from the dug-out, Spennymoor have risen through the Northern and Evo-Stik Leagues, and are now looking to reach the fifth tier of the footballing pyramid.

Off the field, things have been even more impressive, with infrastructural improvements having transformed Brewery Field. The club’s academy boasts 300 young players, and in the last 12 months, Groves has employed a full-time managing director, a head of the academy, a full-time secretary and two full-time ground staff. Most importantly of all, and partially thanks to the redevelopment of the Moors Tavern clubhouse facility, the growth has occurred in a sustainable manner.

“This hasn’t happened overnight,” said Groves. “It’s all been part of a carefully thought-out plan that has taken us to where we are now.

“We’ve made a lot of improvements, but they’ve all been part of a wider programme to allow the club to grow. Now, whatever happens this weekend, we’re in a position where we’ll be turning over £1m-a-year next season. Hopefully, for the first time, the club will be self-sufficient and it won’t need any investment from me.

“The success on the pitch has been brilliant, but me and Jason always thought it was achievable. We always thought we could get to this level, and when we got into National League North a couple of years ago, we put together a five-year plan to get into the Conference. Hopefully, we’ll do it in two.

“If anything though, we’re probably more proud of what we’ve achieved off the pitch. The club has been transformed, and it’s now a club and facility that Spennymoor can be proud of. When we came in, the average attendance was 150 – now it’s just under 1,000. That’s massive for a town like Spennymoor – it basically means about five per cent of the population is coming to our games. We want to be at the very heart of the community.”

But could that sustainable growth survive promotion to the National League, where Spennymoor would be expected to compete with the likes of Notts County, Yeovil Town and Hartlepool United?

“Getting promoted doesn’t hold any fears,” said Groves. “We’ve sat down and mapped out what the budget would look like if we didn’t win promotion, and what we’d have to change if we went up to the National League.

“There’s obviously differences, but the fundamentals of the numbers are fine. We’d be able to handle the step up and wouldn’t have to get ourselves in any trouble.

“I’ve had the chat with Jason, and we’d stay part-time. Yes, we’d be playing against full-time teams with full-time squads, but I think the part-time model would be far better for us.

“The plan would be to give it a go part-time for the first season and see how that pans out. If it wasn’t working, fine, we’d reassess. But we’ve looked at the logistics and we’d be looking at 14 overnight trips in the season. That should be something that a part-time group of lads can accommodate.”

And if Spennymoor were to find themselves in the National League next season, the extent of their ambitions would not end there.

“If we make it to the National League, the aim will be to finish above Hartlepool and Gateshead and make ourselves the fourth highest club in the North-East,” said Groves.

“We want to continue growing in Spennymoor, and we’ve got plans for a big redevelopment that will include new stands, new terracing and more work on the pitch. We also want to branch out our community work and continue growing our academy with BTECs.

“But we also want to attract wider support. Because of Darlington’s demise – and I take no pleasure at all from what’s happened there – County Durham does not have a Football League side.

“We want to be the biggest football club in County Durham. I’m an Easington lad, and I look around where I was brought up and think, ‘If we were playing in the Football League, just think of the support you could attract to Spennymoor’.”