IT IS the ambitious multi-million-pound masterplan aiming to catapult a rapidly growing Hampshire non-league football club into the big time.

Not so long ago, Eastleigh FC’s home had no more than a clubhouse and a single covered stand for diehard fans to cheer on their beloved team.

Now the club is boosting its march towards the Football League by launching a bid of up to £10 million for a multi-purpose, 9,000-seater stadium – nearly doubling its current capacity and creating scores of jobs.

The flagship plan comes just weeks after the National League team’s heroic FA Cup run climaxed with a clash with mightyChampionship team Bolton Wanderers, in what was the biggest match ever held at the Silverlake Stadium.

Now business leaders and politicians have hailed the plans a “fantastic” project which will put the town firmly on the map in the footballing world.

The club – which has celebrated four promotions in 11 years – is already close to fulfilling the criteria for promotion to League Two, its capacity increased to 5,000-plus with last year’s addition of the 2,290-seat Mackoy Community Stand.

It hosted a stadium-record 5,025 for the recent FA Cup tie against Bolton Wanderers, but the long-term vision is to be able to double that.

Now chief executive Mark Jewell has confirmed the club is preparing a planning application for further expansion and said: “We just need to make a few tweaks to have a stadium ready for the Football League, the main job being to improve the quality of the floodlights.

“But having a stadium that will be used by the community all year, not just on matchdays, is the long-term objective.”

Eastleigh were asked to submit a full-scale planning application by Eastleigh Borough Council after applying for a new, £3 million main stand.

Mr Jewell added: “The council have been very helpful but now they’ve seen how serious we are about making the Football League, we need to provide them with our vision of where we want to be.

“We’ve completed phase one and now we want to kick on into phase two."