Around the Grounds No. 28: Haverhill Rovers' The New Croft
PUBLISHED: 19:04 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 19:04 12 December 2018
Football writer Carl Marston done his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. Here he heads to The New Croft, home of Haverhill Rovers
Haverhill Rovers have come a long way, in a very short space of time (and distance!) since they left their old home at Hamlet Croft in 2010.
Rovers had been at their famous old venue for 97 years, ever since moving from Seven Acres, which bordered the only railway line, in 1913.
Hamlet Croft had a proud history, but for the Club to progress, a move to a new purpose-built venue was vital.
Instead of one solitary pitch – which had a slope until it was levelled in the 1960s – and a main-stand (built in 1935 at a cost of £250) with very few facilities, the distinctive all-red of Haverhill Rovers now have a fantastic home on the outskirts of town, down Chalkstone Way, with several pitches, a 3G surface and more than 40 youth teams!
The first team are also going well, in the Thurlow Nunn Premier, led by player-boss Marc Abbott, who marshals his troops from a central midfield role.
Club: Haverhill Rovers
Ground: The New Croft (since 2010)
Manager: Marc Abbott
Chairman: Alastair Shulver
President: Terry McGerty
Terry McGerty, the club president, has been closely associated with Haverhill Rovers for the last 30 years.
And he firmly believes that the West Suffolk club’s new headquarters at The New Croft is “the best in East Anglia.”
“My son Paul played in goal for Haverhill Rovers, and also for Suffolk in the county sides during the 1980s, which is when I first became involved with the club ,” explained McGerty.
“I had a business, and the club had a few financial problems, so I helped out a little bit, and one thing led to another.
“They needed a chairman at the time. Everyone took a pace back, and I was still standing there!
“That was in the early nineties, when the club was in Division One of the Eastern Counties League.
“I was only chairman for two or three years. Steve Brown came in and I became president, because I was negotiating these (New Croft) premises.
“Those negotiations took five years, though I never seemed to stop having meetings with the council and everyone else.
“At the old ground we just had one pitch, and we weren’t going anywhere. The football development authorities wouldn’t give us any more money, because they thought it would be a waste putting it into that ground.
“And then this site became available. It was purpose-built, the facilities are fantastic and I think it’s the best in East Anglia.
“We have nearly 1,000 footballers signed on, we have so many youngsters, from the mini-kickers right through to walking football.
“There’s about 10 pitches outside, and also the 3G, which has been the latest addition. Everybody uses it – 24/7 we have got use of it.
“We are trying to create a pathway for some of the youngsters to eventually make it to the first team, and that is beginning to come to fruition.
“A few out there today (last Saturday) have come through the youth set-up, and most of them are local players anyway.
“Haverhill Borough (founded in 2011) were formed because we wanted to utilise these facilities as much as possible. When we play away, they are playing at home. That’s how that has come about, and they have done very well.
“The facility was all funded by grants. We actually owned Hamlet Croft, although the lease had run out. We owned the actual building, not that was worth very much!
“It’s great to see the club blossoming, it’s not just the first team, but the other 43 teams, and that figure keeps rising!
“We have nearly 100 volunteers that make this club tick. We are all part-timers, though some are here for nearly 50 hours a week.
“It keeps a thousand youngsters off the streets. We are one of the biggest clubs in the area,” added McGerty.
Sat, Dec 1: v Walsham-le-Willows (Thurlow Nunn Premier, 1-0 away win).
This was an entertaining West Suffolk duel, between two in-form teams. Walsham won, thanks to Andrew Cusack’s early strike on six minutes, to rise to fourth in the table, but Rovers were unlucky not to at least secure a point.
I caught up with the esteemed president, Terry McGerty, to interview him in the corridor at half-time, followed by a first-class coffee (not tea, I fancied a change) in the committee room.
A top-notch establishment.