STEVE Abbley is a man who gets things done.

Since becoming Cirencester Town's chairman in 1996, his dynamism has seen the 117-year-old football club win promotion to the Southern League Premier Division and move from its old, dilapidated Smithfield ground to its new, purpose-built Corinium Stadium in 2002.

He followed that by ploughing £700,000 of his own money into constructing the huge Cirencester Arena adjacent to the Kingshill Lane stadium in 2004, making The Centurions the only non-league club to have such a state-of-the-art indoor football facility.

The Arena is also the envy of many professional league clubs, so much so that Swindon Town train there.

Meeting this visionary at the stadium, you find yourself in the pleasant company of a tall, tanned 49-year-old who conveys an ex-professional footballer's enduring fitness and a successful businessman's easy confidence.

This wealthy property developer has come a long way from his Liverpool birthplace.

He was the son of a Liverpool-supporting builder but became an Everton fan after a next-door neighbour took him to see a game at Goodison Park, where Alan Ball became his hero.

After his family moved to Swindon in the late-sixties, the promising schoolboy footballer was signed by Swindon Town in 1979 after their scouts spotted him playing for both Wiltshire County and the South West Counties.

A speedy, goal-scoring right midfielder, who became a right wingback, he transferred to Cheltenham Town in 1982 after four seasons with Swindon.

He was in the Cheltenham side that won the Southern Premier League.

In 1988, he joined Wycombe Wanderers, with whom he finished fifth in the Conference and where his manager was future Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa boss, Martin O'Neill.

Steve's memories of Martin O'Neill?

"All his team talks started off with 'when I played for Brian Clough'. Cloughie was definitely his hero."

With injury forcing Steve out of the professional game, he had a spell at Gloucester City before finishing his playing career at part-time Cirencester where he played for a season and a half until retiring in 1997 aged 40.

He said: "I enjoyed non-league football more than league football.

"The one downfall of league football is that the players and supporters never get to meet, never get to talk, never get to discuss it and swap views. That's a massive strength of non-league football.

"Players go in the bar and mix with the supporters. It's very difficult then for players to become aloof."

Having qualified as an accountant while playing for Swindon, he became a successful businessman and this gave him with the insight to recognise Cirencester's potential.

Steve, who annually commits a six-figure sum to the club, said: "What I had seen was a real opportunity to make a difference.

"The club owned its own ground; that's such a massive asset in today's business world.

"I was really excited by that and I saw the opportunity to take a tiny, little, provincial, backwater - in footballing terms - place and put it on the map."

With the help of Ken Chapman - who designed the stadium and negotiated with council planners - and Anna Kocerhan - instrumental in obtaining a £700,000 Football Foundation grant - he turned a farmer's field into the Corinium Stadium.

Despite all the efforts of Steve and his colleagues, Cirencester's average gate is still only 240 and sometimes attendances fall as low as 150.

He said: "I'm not sure it's a sporting area. I've been over to the rugby club; they get no people out there either.

"If we'd have built what we've got here in Yeovil or Birmingham or somewhere like that we'd fill the place every week.

"It's a real frustration to me that having got probably THE best facilities certainly in the Southern League, if not in non-league football, we can't persuade the Cirencester public to come and watch in numbers.

"We're probably the cheapest club in the league to come and watch. We don't charge anybody to park. If you become a member you get discounted prices. We don't charge kids to come in. We've done as much as we can in terms of incentivising people financially.

"I think part of it is because it's a bit of a dormitory town and a lot of people work in Swindon or Cheltenham or Gloucester but come to live here and so there's quite a large contingent of people who weren't born and bred here.

"I think the highest we could go is probably the next level and that's Conference South, without a real injection of capital or somehow doubling the gates."

Nevertheless, Steve is optimistic for the forthcoming season.

"What I'm hoping for this season, of course, is that we get off to a good start and we play some attractive football and the kind of football people want to come and watch. We can finish in the top ten.

"The bookmakers are offering 50-1 against us winning the league; I think I might have £500 on that."

Steve still has many other things to do and the odds are he will succeed in them too.