While Brighton & Hove Albion have spent the best part of the last decade establishing themselves as the premier football team in the city, non-league Whitehawk FC have continued to make strides as the club that may just challenge them.
Bolstered by fresh investment from local businesses including Kingspan Developments, there has been remarkable progress down at The Enclosed Ground. In perhaps the club’s crowning moment to date, a 2-0 victory over Leiston FC in April confirmed Whitehawk as the Ryman’s Premier League champions, and the beginning of the 2013/14 season has seen the Hawks play their football in the Conference League South.
With on-pitch fortunes improving greatly, it was perhaps inevitable that backroom matters would undergo a transformation too. In addition to the aforementioned financial investment, Whitehawk hit the non-league football headlines earlier this year when word began to spread regarding a rumoured re-branding, with ‘Brighton City’ being touted as the Hawks’ new identity. If these proposed changes do indeed materialise, they may be significant as the first step towards Whitehawk becoming a notable team in the area, both on and off the field.
First, however, Whitehawk must adapt to life in the Conference.
Speaking with non-league blog Football Exclusives after July’s friendly against Hampton & Richmond Borough, manager Darren Freeman declared that he is “quietly confident” about The Hawk’s chances in their new league. Despite their two opening games ending in heavy defeats, Whitehawk’s emphatic 6-2 league victory away at Dorchester in late August, featuring exemplary performances from the likes of star striker Danny Mills, proved that the boss may, in fact, be onto something.
Whitehawk’s nomination for the Contribution to Sussex Sport Award (as part of The Argus’ 2013 Achievement Awards, taking place at the Theatre Royal on October 6th) is proof that the club are on the right track, and will serve as validation to the club’s claim to be a team on the rise. And, at a time when the Albion’s grip on the city’s football fans is at its strongest, there is more than enough room for a second Brighton team to come to prominence.