Billericay Town fans were few in their numbers and the club was lingering in the Isthmian League Premier Division, following a season in the Conference South.

That was in 2016. By the end of the year, they had a new owner and while that is to be expected in football, the club and its fans could never have imagined what would happen over the next 11 months.

Multi-millionaire Glenn Tamplin, who began his own steel business in 2002 and has a fleet of sports cars, has invested over £1m into club since he took over. While it seems odd that someone with that kind of money would travel to the small New Lodge stadium that Billericay Town call home and buy them, he has set the target of reaching the Premier League in 10 years.

Ex-Premier League stars in Billericay

Following his purchase of the non-league outfit came a host of ex-Premier League players, who have played in European and FA Cup finals, as well as, being used to playing in front of tens of thousands of people, not the 211 that was the norm before the takeover.

Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara and ex-West Ham defender Paul Konchesky were among the first signings. Jermaine Pennant, who started in Liverpool’s 2007 Champions League final defeat to AC Milan, was also welcomed at the club, while Kevin Foley, formerly of Wolverhampton Wanderers, almost joined under the radar, such as was the enormity of the other arrivals.

Tamplin has also hired himself as manager, and while he has no previous experience in the dugout, Ricay, as they are affectionately known as, are currently second with just one point separating themselves and league leaders Leiston, but do have two games in hand.

On Saturday, Billericay were minutes away from reaching the First Round Proper of the FA Cup, where League One and Two clubs enter the draw. If not for a late equaliser from 10-man Brackley Town, they would have reached that stage for the first time since 2007-08 season, but now face replay.

Charitable off the pitch

While success has seen attendances rise from under 300 to 4,582 for a pre-season friendly against West Ham under-23, and season ticket sales reach more than 700, Tamplin has also made a name for himself in the local community.

The steel business owner donated £45,000 towards an operation for seven-year-old Harry Parker to be able to walk again, having been told that he would be in a wheelchair for life without it. Tamplin has since put the name of the youngster, who dreams of becoming just like Harry Kane, on one of the stands at the New Lodge.

More recently, the Ricay manager met two homeless men on the streets of the town, one of whom fought in the Falklands War, and gave them full-time jobs at the club and accommodation.

For many football fans, they hope that a new owner can invest money into the playing squad with the hope of either rising through the divisions or winning trophies. However, Tamplin has gone beyond that, not only giving a non-league side some star quality and players with impressive CVs, but he has also reached out to the entire Billericay community and changed lives, rather than just improving the local team.