BELEAGUERED Devizes Town chairman Chris Belcher was ostracised by many stalwarts from his own club before the friendly match against Bristol City.

The match on Thursday evening which should have been a showcase opening for the new season was dogged by major behind-the-scenes row which has left the club suspended by the Wiltshire FA.

Leading members of the club turned up on Thursday morning to find the pitch was unplayable with the grass inches high.

When Mr Belcher was contacted he is said to have replied that the situation should either be sorted or the match would have to be called off.

It left a number of key club people including manager Dave Hopkins having to do the work themselves and to call in favours to get the pitch fixed.

The match was only allowed to go ahead at the Devizes ground as it was a select eleven rather than the Devizes team as the club is banned from playing until another hearing on August 11.

Hopkins said: "We found out on Wednesday morning that the pitch needed to be marked and cut," he said.

"We marked it out from 4pm to 11pm on Wednesday, but come Thursday morning we couldn't cut the pitch because the mower blade had broken.

"Fortunately Wiltshire County Council helped us out."

Another leading member of the club said: "Belcher did nothing to help. He just turned up at 6.30pm wanting to be the big I Am and spoke to the Bristol City people.

"Afterwards he went to a dinner with them. He does nothing to help this club and people will be glad to see the back of him."

The Wiltshire FA called Mr Belcher to a meeting at the beginning of the month to discuss irregularities about the way the club was turned into a limited company and financial problems.

But on Thursday evening Mr Belcher was still telling people privately that he hopes to sell the ground to supermarket giant Tesco.

But he would be unable to sell the ground without the agreement of owners Linpac and yesterday general manager Steve Hinton confirmed his head office had not been approached about any sale.

Mr Hinton said: "Chris Belcher came to me about six weeks ago to ask about selling the land and I gave him the name of someone at our head office but I spoke to them today and they definitely have not been approached.

"Linpac bought the land originally to safeguard it from development. It would be impossible to sell it without Linpac agreeing."

Mr Hinton said that in February Linpac had stopped its sponsorship of the football club when it found out it was a limited company but he would be happy to consider sponsoring the club again if it went back to being a members club.

A group of club followers are hoping they may be able to reform the old members club if the FA finds against Mr Belcher on August 11.

Hopkins added that he hopes the club will become more stable and said he has the support of the playing staff. "The internal side of the club is not very good at all," he said. "But everybody has got to dig in and help as best they can. I'd like to think all these little things will get sorted out.

"Everything is going okay on the playing side and all the players are sticking by me for now. There's no problem there. The football side is going really well and the reaction from the players has been positive."

For the second week running, Belcher would not return any of the Gazette's phone calls.