FRAN Milne and the rest of Whitstable Town’s hardy band of volunteers are hoping the upcoming campaign will be a case of third time lucky when it comes to completing a season under their ‘new’ guise.

This week marks two years since the Pitching In Isthmian League outfit merged with Whitstable Town Juniors and Milne has been involved as a director and secretary ever since.

Each of the past two seasons have been curtailed prematurely by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic but with the new campaign set to begin on August 14, Milne hopes brighter times are on the horizon.

“It has been tough,” she said. “The same amount of work has had to be done – possibly more - and we’ve been trying to find ways to keep the club going and keep us solvent, making it much harder.

“We do all the hard work behind the scenes for the enjoyment of watching the matches and seeing the team win on a Saturday.

“For the majority of the past year, we haven’t had that, so we’ve got all the hard stuff without the good stuff.

“We’re all hoping this season can run as normal as watching the first-team win makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

The lack of action in recent months has had an upside in terms of allowing the club to strengthen the bond between the junior and senior sections, with the Belmont Ground pitch opened up to Town’s youngsters since youth football restarted.

“The merger has been brilliant,” said Milne, whose son Will and daughter Annabelle play for the club’s under-11s and under-9s respectively.

“Our youth teams have loved playing on the pitch and the first-team played a training match with the under-18s, which was really nice to watch.

“To see them playing together is what we wanted to achieve – all together as one club. Longer-term, we’d love to see more of those youngsters coming through and playing for the first-team.”

The Oystermen are one of 228 clubs across the three Trident Leagues supported by Pitching In, a landmark grassroots sport investment programme established by Ladbrokes with the support of its owner Entain.

In addition to funding, the initiative places a focus on community and volunteering and with National Volunteers’ Week currently in full swing, Milne sees this as an opportune time for others to start getting involved with their local non-league side.

“We desperately need more help,” she said. “I’d say to anyone, just come along and try it.

“Whatever you do, you’ll help all the children who play for the club and make a real difference in the community.

“I’ve found it incredibly rewarding and it really has changed my life.”

Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: