Pelsall football club fights back after arson attack
A 120-year-old football club has been rescued from the ashes of a devastating arson attack after an 'overwhelming' response from the community.
People from the town have rallied round and vowed to keep historic Pelsall Villa from closure following two serious acts of vandalism in three weeks.
The latest, on Sunday, saw flames destroy the committee room, newly refurbished toilet block and dozens of new seats donated by Stoke City FC in a deliberate attack by yobs.
The club started clearing up the site today and hopes to start rebuilding work next week.
A neighbouring sports club, pub and businesses have come forward with offers of help.
The Midland League has also re-arranged the club's fixtures to that their first few matches of the new season are all held at opponents' grounds.
WATCH: Footage of the devastation
Pelsall Cricket Club has invited the football club to use its facilities for hospitality on match days, while The Queens pub in the village is holding a special fundraising event next month.
Co-chairman Darren Phillips said: "One hundred per cent we're not going to fold. We were on the floor when this first happened but the response has been overwhelming and we're a lot more optimistic now."
He and fellow chairman Mark Bentley have pledged to have the ground, nicknamed The Bush, match-ready by August 28.
"There's nothing like putting yourself under pressure but we're gong to achieve it come hell or high water," said Mr Phillips.
During the earlier break-in at the Walsall Road ground, intruders ripped holes in walls and ceilings as well as smashing widows and hurling red paint around. Work was being done to repair that damage when the fire was started at 4am on Sunday.
Club bosses said they were 'heartbroken' and thought it might be the end of the road for the club but have been encouraged by the reaction to their dilemma. At a committee meeting this week a comeback plan was drawn up.
Mr Phillips said: "The meeting went extremely well. We're very grateful for the support of Pelsall Cricket Club who have invited us to use their facilities to host our visitors on match days.
"The club is right next door, literally the other side of the fence, so that is great. The Queen's pub is holding a fundraising day on August 5, so everyone is pulling together."
He said the clearing work was being carried out for free by Pelsall-based Hayward Transport haulage company.
"After they've finished we'll be able to take stock of the damage and see what needs to be done, then we're going to start restructuring work on Monday.
"We applied to the league with a view to reversing our home fixtures for the month of August so that they can be played at the away grounds and they have been extremely supportive of that. Everyone is pulling in the same direction.
"The target is to have the ground ready to play on August Bank Holiday, for our match against Bloxwich United."
Police are investigating both attacks.