Famous sons of Billericay? Easy: Alison Moyet, Lee Evans, David Gandy and – fictionally, admittedly, but they still count – Gavin, Mick and Pam Shipman (not forgetting Smithy) of Gavin and Stacey fame. But now, coming up hard on the outside, threatening to add his name to the list, is the larger-than-life figure of Glenn Tamplin; arguably the closest thing non-league football has to Donald Trump.
Tamplin’s the owner slash manager of Billericay Town – a side plying their trade in the Isthmian League (aka the Bostick League), the seventh tier of English football – and he’s been making serious waves since taking over as owner in December 2016.
Their lowly status hasn’t prevented their new benefactor from splashing the cash: he’s believed to be spending upwards of £25,000 a week on the wages of his squad, which includes former top pros and serial drifters Jamie O’Hara, Paul Konchesky and Jermaine Pennant; probably ten times better than what their rivals are working with.
Much like auld Donald, money – and flaunting just how much he has – appears to be the main motivating factor for multi-millionaire Tamplin, who made his fortune as a steel tycoon. Witness this hilarious modern day Footballers’ Cribs episode on (but of course) Essex Life where he takes you round his £18m house, complete with a dining table and chair set untouched by such a foreign concept as taste.
However, the most glaring similarity between the two can be seen in their use of Twitter, the ultimate tool for the narcissist who loves being talked about, who will smash out any old nonsense to get that sweet, sweet buzz of attention.
Tamplin’s Twitter account is an absolute must-follow. It reads like a Wolf of Wall Street fansite, variously declaring that nothing will stop his ‘lions’, loudly detailing his charitable work, retweeting anyone who praises his ‘passion’, boasting about his Twitter engagement stats and calling out ‘muggy keyboard warrier haters’.
But why, exactly, are there so many ‘haters’? After all, he’s just spending his own money on his local team, right? An admirable pursuit, no? Strap yourself in.
The below is footage that Tamplin had filmed of himself asserting that "second place is first loser" and "it's a fucking war" before leading an unironic chorus of the R. Kelly classic ‘World’s Greatest’ ahead of a local cup final against Tonbridge Angels back in April – a match which, to be fair, they won 8-3.
With such an open goal to aim for, it was left to Jimmy ‘I’ve almost certainly unsuccessfully tried to trademark the word Banter at some stage in my career’ Bullard to score a tap in – leading his Leatherhead side in their own rendition of the track after they’d defeated Billericay in a game to ensure their own survival in the league back in April. Rumour has it that, before the stunt, Tamplin was going to approach Bullard to become Billericay manager, but quickly changed his mind due to the damage to his ego that resulted from this send-up.
Then there was this, erm, ‘artistic’ mural, that was put up in the changing rooms at Billericay’s ground during the close season:
And this, erm, other ‘artistic’ mural which went up on an external wall of the ground which featured a portrait of – yes, that’s right – himself:
And, naturally, for a man who will never tire of posing with his expensive cars, this, erm, ‘artistic’ creation:
Oh, and not forgetting this piece of magnificence, for which we’re sure David Brent will be claiming royalties:
With the season about to start, Tamplin, of course, took to Twitter to declare his belief that his team would steamroller all before them. There’d not be any possible way he’d regret this tweet, surely?
Naturally, they lost their opening game 1-0 to Kingstonian.
Stung by this, Tamplin then returned to Twitter for an ill-advised, and since deleted tweet, directed to one of his ‘haters’:
Whilst committing the most classic ‘angry man not thinking before hitting send’ trick in the book:
Inevitably, the Twitter flounceout followed close behind:
Equally inevitably, the Twitter flounceout lasted all of three days:
After lots 💙💙& support from BTFC fans, friends and strangers saying get back on twitter and ignore the haters I'm back but no biting— Glenn Tamplin (@glenntamplin) August 20, 2017
So: it’s a soap opera. And it’s certainly easy to laugh at Tamplin, the stereotypical Essex wide boy with a few quid, a monstrous ego and the same interior designer as Trump Tower.
But, really, is he such a monster? After all, there is no doubt – largely thanks to his incessant documenting of it – that he does plenty of other charity work.
He attracted headlines for donating £35,000 to help fund an operation for Harry Parker, a Hertfordshire boy with cerebral palsy, so that he could realise his dream of playing football with his own two feet. Tamplin then went even further, announcing that a stand in the ground would be dedicated to accommodating children and adults with disabilities, naming it after young Harry. Whatever else you think of him, this is a genuinely wonderful move.
However, it’s not all plain sailing. He received massive criticism for the tweet which appeared earlier in this article – which advised a rival fan to commit suicide - while he attracted a similar storm of condemnation for an earlier image he tweeted out, again aimed at his ‘haters’:
Again, though, this is not straightforward; while both of those tweets were ignorant, ill-informed and downright dangerous, he then revealed in an interview, “I tried to commit suicide years ago myself and have employed eight street pastors at Billericay Town FC to help kids with depression because I know how desperate it can be for some youngsters. All I am guilty of doing is building a football club, bringing the local community together, employing good footballers and providing jobs and helping children with disabilities.”
For a man like Tamplin to reveal something so personal in public is admirable, as is his attempts to help others – although, of course, he should know better than anyone the stupidity of his actions, and that he ought to think things through before tweeting them out to the general public.
He protests: “I get more Twitter hate than anyone I know. Three out of five messages are abuse. If you read that comment as a message to kill himself…that comment is banter going both ways… The sensible thing which I do daily is to block these individuals and I have blocked thousands of others. Three in five are hate messages attacking me personally or my family and sometimes it’s as low as stuff about sleeping with my wife, and vile abuse against my Mother.”
But then, it’s 2017. What do you really expect from Twitter? If you constantly talk about ‘haters’, what are you going to get? More of them. You can hardly complain about getting people’s backs up when you’re constantly goading them and exhibiting precisely zero humility. A sensible person might suggest that an easy way to stop the abuse would be to ‘leave Twitter’, but this is Glenn ‘The T in Tamplin is for Toptweeter’ Tamplin we’re talking about. Like Trump, he loves the easy attention, but he can’t handle the consequences.
Back to the football: can the great Tamplin experiment really succeed?
Part of me wants them to. Maybe the guy genuinely wants to build a club to benefit his local community. Good for him if he does. And, considering these sorts of adventures almost always end in failure, it would certainly be entertaining, if nothing else, to see a real larger-than-life character lift a small club up and into the big time. Maybe he’ll take Brent’s/his own advice and let his mistakes be his teacher.
But, you look at the history – at the likes of Hornchurch and Margate who suddenly acquired wealth in the non-leagues and then just as suddenly saw it disappear, and the near-destruction of my own team Leyton Orient by an owner who thought chucking money at it and picking the team himself was the solution – and it doesn’t look good.
Highly-paid, undermotivated players looking for an easy payday is the quickest route to undermining team spirit and fostering resentment from their teammates – R. Kelly singalongs won’t stop that – while Tamplin has fallen for the oldest, and most dangerous temptation in the book by appointing himself as manager. Managers – unless you’re Sir Alex Ferguson – always fail. Always. It’s part of the job description. So when Tamplin fails – and he will – he’ll have no one else to blame. His ego won’t be able to handle it.
Remember Michael Knighton the manager? Remember Ron Noades the manager? It’s always a disaster. Interfere as much as you desire, but don’t take on the job. But perhaps it’s already too late: America’s president has proved unable to change his ways as time has gone on, maybe Tamplin will be the same.
I just hope, once the dust settles, it doesn’t see an innocent club, with supporters who love their team just like any other, left high and dry with a load of debt and some truly appalling murals on the wall, and some – admittedly hilarious – tweets to show for it.