Loxwood Football Club, nickname “The Magpies” was founded in the village back in 1920. Since its formation, the football club has competed, on and off, in local village football for 75 years but primarily on a non-competitive basis, so there is little in terms of accolades beyond local bragging rights.
However, in 1997 the club re-formed and joined the West Sussex Football League, starting at the bottom of the regional county pyramid in its 5th Division. Over the following 9 years the club progressed through the various regional and county-wide divisions until ultimately, under the leadership of player/manager Barry Hunter (above right) they secured promotion from the League’s Premier Division in 2006 and thereby took their place in the Sussex County League and would now compete in Step 7 football for the very first time.
It only took two seasons for the Club to make the next step as in 2008 The Magpies secured the 3rd Division title and in the same year reached the final of the Sussex County FA Intermediate Cup, but missed out on a rare double by losing on penalties to Bexhill United. This next step up provided the Club with the platform to expand beyond its 1st Team and the next couple of years saw it launch both a Reserve Team in the County League as well as form an alliance with a local youth football club to set about securing its on-field future to go with the vast advances that were being made off it. The most notably of these developments at Plaistow Road were the installation of some of the most effective floodlights in the County League and a 100-seater covered stand, thereby providing what is a delightfully atmospheric arena in the middle of the Sussex countryside, particularly on midweek nights.
Despite these betterments, the challenge of rising out of the County’s second tier was proving elusive, with 5th and 6th placed finishes being the pinnacle. The Club weren’t without notable occasions to be cherished during that time, in particular in 2010 when the Club reached the Division 2 Cup Final as well as hosting Brighton & Hove Albion in the County Cup where they only went down 3-1 in front of a packed house under the lights.
Nevertheless, Barry Hunter magnanimously passed the reins over to Dave Cocoracchio in 2012 enabling him to assume the much-valued role of Club Chairman from which he could continue to drive his vision for the Club as a whole. Dave’s arrival at the Club sparked another period of advancement as firstly the Senior side achieved promotion to the top tier in the County in 2014 as well as winning the Division 2 Cup that they had missed out on 4 years previously. Later that year came the much cherished launch of Loxwood Youth Football Club, which had been a long-desired goal and put in place the foundations for the Club to develop a clear route for local players to enjoy their football from an early age and provide the opportunity for them to develop all the way through to representing the First Team.
2015 saw a top 6 finish in the first year of the top division as well as the Club’s Reserve Team finally being successful in achieving promotion from the second tier of that section and thereby closing the gap in quality of the opposition the two senior sides were competing against. This year also saw the development of another key partnership as ex-professional Mark Beard launched his Love The Ball Sussex Academy under the Club’s banner and with it bringing in a quality of young player that would see the winning of the U18 County Cup (and its retention in 2016) as well as securing the Southern Youth League South Division title. Due to Dave’s growing work commitments, Mark also took over the management of the 1st Team later that year enabling the former to focus on his role as Director of Football overseeing both the Senior and Youth aspects of the Club. This structure led to an exciting new period for the Club and commenced with the winning of the inaugural County U21 West title under the stewardship of Matt Camp – an achievement that perfectly demonstrated the Club’s commitment to investing in young, promising players.
A 6th place finish in Division One (Now Premier) in 2014/15 followed by 8th in 2015/16 and 6th in 2016/17 (Both Premiership) but with a slight slip to 11th in 2017/18 had pretty firmly established the Club as a real competitor in amongst some sizeable towns and cities.
Change was afoot though across several areas. Loxwood chairman Barry Hunter stepped down from his role at the end of the 2017/18 season after 15 years of overall service and a 'monumental journey' at the club. Hunter played a key role in that rise having served as a player, first-team manager, director of football and most recently, chairman, in that time. His successor Mark Lacey a local businessman joined the club committee two years previously and had already brought into the close-knit ethos at Loxwood. At this time Dave Cocoracchio stayed in charge of first team management duties and as the club's director of football.
However, in April 2018 Dave Cocoracchio announced he was also stepping down at the end of this season due to work related reasons - and also relinquishing his role as director of football. He was replaced as manager by Gareth Neathey, who has been the assistant manager to both the first team and under-18s.
Our U18’s team continued under the management of Matt Camp. Having won the Combined Counties U18 League and been quarter finalists and semi-finalists in various cup competitions it’s certainly been a season to be proud of!
2018/19 saw a very tricky spell for the First Team however culminating with a dip into the relegation zone. A swift move by the now fully ensconced new Chairman, Mark Lacey, and his committee by bringing in new and very experienced senior player management Alex Walsh and Nathan Bowen effectively combined to save the day and some last minute success eventually meant we finished two places outside the drop zone and a large sigh of relief was heard across The Nest.
Change continued however only this time surrounding our development squad. Yet more work pressure meant Matt Camp had to relinquish his responsibility for the U18 squad after all his hard work and with departures from Gareth Neathey and Chris Simmons the committee were left once again to consider the best options.
Eventually an U23 route was preferred and the newly appointed Charlie Holmes and Jack Stevens took the reins of a squad entered into the Combined Counties U23 league. They worked closely with the First Team management to ensure maximum opportunity for the development players as part of a wider Senior squad. The 2019/20 Season was not our finest. In fact, we struggled to maintain a consistent team right through the season and with that lack of consistency reflected in results we were left languishing at the bottom of the Premier League. The U23 saw out the season with a slightly better record but still mixed. Nathan Bowen left the Club to go to Worthing and the committee feared the worst. We were saved purely by circumstances, and with a second chance at things moved quickly to install new management across both First Team and U23 (also moving the U23’s back to Sussex rather the Combined Counties. Spencer Slaughter was confirmed as manager with Paul Dollner as his assistant and head coach. Ismael Vasconcelos was appointed as the U23 Manager. They quickly embarked on a total rebuild of the team, obviously in the difficult circumstances we all face. This has come together well, and everyone is just looking forward to getting out and playing football again.
With Covid effectively putting the brakes on County Football many changes ensued over this period. Spencer Slaughter moved back to Hassocks as a player and Paul Dollner (who had left the club) then returned as manager and augmented his team with the addition of Matt McCabe. In addition Andrew Thompson (First Team Coach) has joined them whilst Paul Dowdell (GK Coach) continue as part of a vastly experienced team. The team itself has also gone through several changes and Paul is gradually building a squad based around a very young base.
Our pitch and facilities continue to improve, befitting our Senior Football Club status, and facilities include floodlights, hard spectator standing around the pitch, a 100-seater stand, a covered stand and a modern clubhouse which have all come because of significant local fundraising, sponsors and grant applications. The Plaistow Road pitch is now regarded as one of the best playing surfaces in Sussex. Indeed, we regularly host important semi-finals and finals at County level. As part of our development we are currently replacing the pitch side fencing, adding extra toilet facilities, providing new dugouts and additional goals for various age groups. Effectively, over just a 20 year period, this historic village football club has rapidly evolved into a Senior Football Club that has a reputation for doing things the ‘right’ way. Loxwood is a club that seeks to provide the best possible environment for all at the Club: our players, coaches, and supporters from every age group. An environment that is conducive to the development of all involved as footballers, people, and members of a team in order to succeed both on and off the pitch in a manner which is sustainable and respectful.