Billericay Town owner Glenn Tamplin shares his fascinating life story
- Credit: Archant
He’s made millions running a company shaping steel, owns Billericay Town Football Club, is both publicly and privately a generous philanthropist and is a committed Christian. In typically unique style, Glenn Tamplin shares his life story (so far) with Robyn Bechelet
Billericay Town FC’s Blunt’s Wall Road ground is very much a muddy work in progress on the day of this interview. Well-orchestrated construction work is in progress. It’s Tuesday. Leyton Orient are expected Saturday. Really?
To a man, the build team are polite and helpful when I, and later our lovely make-up artist, Angela Pumo, pick our way through the mud in heels for our appointment in the being-refurbed clubhouse bar.
White T-shirted Glenn Tamplin has his back to the room, he is deep into talking finances with two men in the far corner of the clubhouse. The conversation drifts over. Single numbers seem to refer to millions rather than thousands. All three sit on ordinary plastic chairs. I later learn that already that day he has cut the programme price for fans and announced it on twitter.
Glenn’s gold neck chain (we later see) has a large gold crucifix hanging from it. He’s well cut (that’ll be the martial arts every morning). Respectful distance is observed.
To use one of Glenn’s words, everyone else, yes everyone, is ‘galvanised’. That includes his lovely mother-in-law, Denise, and beautiful wife, Bliss, who, it looks like, are learning the ticket machines.
Around Glenn a new pitch is being laid, Tarmac put down, plaster knocked up, floors swept, a mural of biblical proportions and content is being spray-painted on his office wall, floors mopped and someone somewhere is hoovering. Steel clangs outside signify that a new world is being built, in what feels like must be, oooh, seven days?
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I am looked after, pieces of pristine white A4 paper are put on a dusty chair to sit on and tea offered. I watch one of Glenn’s legendary team talks on my phone. It’s time. We settle down for the interview and ask him to have his face painted to show he stands with the fans. He agrees with a grin, ‘anything that will help the club’.
A man like that, well it would be wrong of anyone to get in the way of what he has to say – so here is his story in his words.
Chapter One: Bullies, football and a brick wall
Life for 45-year-old Glenn didn’t start with a gorgeous mansion in Abridge (reportedly worth £18 million). The early years were lived at St Andrew’s Corner in Dagenham.
‘What was my childhood like? It was okay until I was 13. Well no, no it wasn’t. I’m lying.
‘I live in a block of flats from the age of two until the age of 13, from six years old I am allowed to play out on my own in the concrete square where everyone used to hang their washing, that’s where we would play football. From eight until 12, I was always getting bullied. I would come in and try to hide that I had been beaten up, which was difficult: I was scarred, scratched and bruised.
‘I didn’t know but at three years old my name was changed to Tamplin, I was born Thomas and I never knew until I was 13 years old. That’s when my real dad – him and my mum – decided they were going to get back together. My mum was married to my stepdad who I believed, and was told, was my dad. My dad was my dad and I loved him like a dad, he was superman.
‘When I was sat down at 13 and told that my dad wasn’t my real dad, I don’t even remember the date. I blocked it out. That broke me. Within three weeks I had arranged to go and see my real dad, because my mum wanted me to.
‘So I went and met my real dad down the social club. He was this tall man, with muscles and tattoos, everyone running around his needs. It sounds terrible, but I wanted to be around him because to me he was a powerful man. After two weeks of seeing him, he didn’t want to see me anymore…
‘So my mum decided to stay with my stepdad, my stepdad in his nutty-ness stayed with her and family life went on. I had a sister, Julie. She died when she was three. Died in her bed. They called it cot death, but I was too young to realise.
‘I had one talent and it was football. By 11 I was playing district football, county football, I was at West Ham and Orient, so once my mum and dad told me, I put all my concentration – moved it, switched it all – to football.
‘Chose Orient over West Ham because of YTS (Youth Training Scheme). Literally I wasn’t even 14 so six months after what had gone on with my dad, I put everything into football, then I was released by Orient so there’s another kick in the teeth.
‘That hit me hard. Again, I remember the conversation well. I don’t know why, I carried on going, I carried on playing football, I played for the district, I played for the county but I gave up trying to be a pro. From then on I built a brick wall…nobody is going to hurt me.
‘I went to work at Rainham Steel at 16 years old, while playing semi-pro football. I was playing for Barkingside.’
Chapter two: Love lost, loan got, burnt out
Glenn’s wedding is dramatically called off two weeks before the big day, everything booked.
‘I was convinced from that minute onwards I was never going to let a woman hurt me again. Particularly over money. My driving force became money. She did me a favour.
‘Six months later I was working for Rainham Steel and I was their top salesman for over two and a half years. I got a £50 Argos voucher as a Christmas bonus after a month before selling £1.8 million on my own. But within six months with a father figure breaking my heart and a woman breaking my heart it pushed me to say, what have I got to lose?
‘I basically went out and got a £50,000 loan. I set my company up. For ten years, with lots of things going against me, I worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, borrowing money left right and centre, paying it back with interest.’
Chapter three: Faith saved my life
Glenn describes how a rival steel fabrication business set up in competition and all his staff, except two great friends, left. (We’ll leave the detail for his own book).
‘So I started the business again, but this time I added the dimension of fitting the steel as well as making it, so we then became a supplier and erector.
‘Stuck everything into it again and it went very, very well for eight years. The money started coming in, the different USPs (unique selling propositions) I bought in worked, but then I was finding myself struggling at work, struggling to do 18 hours a day, seven days a week. At the time I had three children, but wasn’t seeing them. I was always working and I was burned out.
‘I ended up in Harlow mental institution for two months. It forced me to stop. I genuinely wanted to take my own life. I had lost all hope, everything. The reason why this is important is because this is why I help people now, and why I do what I do. It’s why I am what I am. Because, I have been there; I have been in the Devil’s pit. If I didn’t have children I would have taken my life. They are the only thing that stopped me.
‘Pastors were coming in and trying to give people faith, and that’s where I got my faith and I became born again.
‘If I didn’t have faith I would have struggled a lot. There would have been too many resentments I would have been holding on to. I believe Jesus is my father, and I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit saved me, I really do.’
(Glenn had collapsed prior to being admitted). ‘I had an angina attack. I lost two stone of water in four minutes. It was like someone had turned a hose on my head. How I came back I will never know. It was ridiculous.
‘I was pronounced dead and I had a visitation. I was floating over my body and it was this ultraviolet light above me with no sharpness to it. It was just peaceful and the pain I was in had gone. I see Jesus in his robe and he gave me opportunities. His words were, “do you want to fulfil your purpose or do you want to go now?” I said, “I will fulfil my purpose”. I made a deal with him there and then and four minutes later I was back in my body.’
Chapter four: Finding peace in the Lord
Glenn, what did you think your purpose was?
‘I didn’t have a clue. You try to force what your purpose is, rather than waiting for the message. I set up a company called the Silkworth Trust and started feeding the homeless. I started helping addicts. I thought that couldn’t have been my purpose, because if it was, the Lord would have made it work.
‘I had a 20,000sq ft house, three wonderful children, Ferraris, Bentleys, Rolexs, everything that you think you want, but I didn’t have peace of mind and I wanted it to end. Once I found God, it filled that hole which I would call peace of mind. It filled that void, because I had been trying to find a dad and I never found him. I had been trying to find a woman and they kept letting me down. So for me it gave me peace of mind when I found the Lord.
‘I never had peace of mind before in my life. I had been filling the void with the wrong stuff, with anger, resentment, insecurities. I have a room at the bottom of the garden, called the Upper Room. I have Christians coming there every Saturday and we talk about Christianity for two hours every Saturday morning.
‘We have people there who want to get born again. We have people there who have issues with mental health. I am a Bible reader, I have got scriptures all around. I ask Jesus to fill me with selflessness and love. I do it for 10 to 15 minutes every morning. That’s how I start the day. My bigger driving force is a bit like what you have seen in that room I am painting.’
‘The difference with me is, people say who is the most influential man in your life and I say The Lord. I believe mindset is everything. Do you want to be an eagle soaring in the sky making love while you’re flying? Or do you want to be a chicken pecking around? What do you want to be?’
Chapter five: Team Talks
Glenn’s impassioned team talks and the R Kelly The World’s Greatest team song are an internet sensation.
‘I’ll start a speech and I’ll say: “Brothers, I am going to stand by you today. Are you going to stand by me? What are we? And they’ll go: “Brothers”. And I’ll go, “I will fight for every inch of grass today. I will bleed for my brothers. What are we?” And they’ll go: “Brothers”.
‘And it gets louder and louder and louder, and this Saturday, I was so in the moment, I booted this table, a player jumped up and said, “I have never been so inspired in all my life!”.
‘I believe I have got this football club because I need to galvanise Billericay. I think we need to bring the community together, we need to change the face of non-league football. The biggest reason I think I am here is to help the children of the community. I have just met John Baron, the local MP, and I have committed to 120 children’s charities with him as well as paying £45,000 for six-year-old Harry Parker to have an operation and naming a stand at the ground for disabled children and their families after him.
‘We have four street pastors here every home game, I have got a hut for them and they are offering to help teenagers in need at the football club. For me, for some reason, I have a massive influence around children. Now I believe God’s given me the cars, the muscles, the tattoos, the clothes, the watches, because kids look up to that.’