No. 26: toasty press box at St Neots Town's Rowley Park

PUBLISHED: 12:06 26 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:06 26 November 2018

The main stand at Rowley Park, the home of St Neots Town since 2008 . Picture: CARL MARSTON

The main stand at Rowley Park, the home of St Neots Town since 2008 . Picture: CARL MARSTON

Archant

Football writer Carl Marston dons 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 Rowley Park, home of St Neots Town

Rowley Park, the resplendent new home of St Neots Town FC, made a big impression on me.

I was very, very impressed.

You cannot fail but be swayed by the Saints’ formidable new venue, built in 2008 after the old Rowley Park site was earmarked for development.

The stadium, the playing surface, the banqueting hall, the club bar, the full 3G training pitch ….. all are top-notch.

But for me, the feature that swung it, in terms of shooting Rowley Park straight into the distinguished list of ‘some of my favourite grounds’, was simple – the small press box had a heater, and it worked!

- No. 25: Soul of the club returns to Stowmarket Town

It was a bit nippy on Tuesday evening, when I made the journey into Cambridgeshire to report on Needham Market’s clash with the Saints in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Central.

I arrived with two pairs of socks, gloves, scarf, hat, the lot. But I ended up taking most of my clothes off, in the Rowley Park press box.

As you can detect, I am easily pleased at a football ground!

The low-down

Club: St Neots Town

Founded: 1879 (disbanded in 1988, reformed in 1990)

Ground: Rowley Park (new stadium since 2008)

Manager: Iain Parr

Chairman: Barry Cavilla

President: John Walker

The interview

I sat next to John Walker, in the snug press box, a fountain of all knowledge associated with St Neots Town.

He is the Club President, and the club historian, and has been attached to the Saints for more decades than he care to mention, having filed match reports to the ‘East Anglian Daily Times’ former sister paper, The Green Un (weekly football paper), during the late 1970s from various Cambridgeshire clubs.

By the end of the evening, there was not much that I didn’t know about St Neots Town FC, and Rowley Park in particular.

“We didn’t have to pay, to get this new ground built,” explained Walker.

- No.23: Bury Town’s Ram Meadow and its uncertain future

“We were in a ground over in the town, at Shortsands (from 1899) until we got kicked out of there in the mid-1980s, and we went out of business for several years, at this (senior) level, until 1994.

“We came back playing on a pitch at the bottom of this road here, and all we had to do was get a lease because it is peppercorn rent (a small, nominal payment).

“And we put a clause in the lease saying if we are moved for development, then the developer has to put us into accommodation at least as good, so this didn’t cost us a penny. All we had to do was to negotiate the lease.

“We have been very lucky, but we went through the mill to get here!

“We’ve got a 3G pitch out the back, a full size with floodlights. We use that for our Academy, scholarship teams and the ladies’ team. Peterborough United Reserves also played on it last year.

“And we’ve put a lot of money into the pitch, because it’s the most important part of the club.

“We also have planning permission for a stand on the other side of the ground (opposite the main stand), if we ever get up into the National League, so we can put 300 seats there. There’s only a railway line behind.

“In all, it cost three-million pound to build, for the developer, not us. I suppose we were in the right place at the right time,” added Walker.

Carl’s visit

Tues, Nov 20: v Needham Market (Southern League Premier Central, 3-0 away win):

St Neots Town FC may have a super stadium, and an excellent pitch, but their team leaves a lot to be desired at the moment!

Hopes of winning promotion into Step Two, at National League (South or North) level seem a long way off at the moment, with the side currently squatting in the relegation zone.

They were soundly beaten by dominant Needham Market on Tuesday night, and I certainly made the right choice to stand behind the goal which the Marketmen were attacking, for much of the first half, to take some pictures.

There was plenty of footage in that penalty area!

Yet for the remainder of the evening, I gently roasted myself in the press box, beside the heater, while being informed of little snippets of club history by the distinguished Mr Walker.

The evening just flew by.

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