After marking his return with a winning goal, Ben Bradley has thanked everyone connected with Haverhill Rovers for their support following the tragic death of his cousin.
The Haverhill-based midfielder unleashed a flood of emotion as he celebrated with his delighted team-mates after scoring a crucial third goal in Friday night’s 3-2 derby win at Long Melford.
It came after he took absence of leave from the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division club following the terrible news emerging that his 23-year-old Chigwell-based cousin, Curtis Payne, was the van driver killed at the wheel in a collision on the A1307 between Linton and Cambridge on November 14.
“It has been a bit of an emotional ride for me,” said 21-year-old Bradley.
“I have obviously been absent for the last few games having a difficult few weeks, so coming on and scoring the winner has put a smile back on my face.
“There is nothing that can lift a man more than playing the game he loves.
“It has been great for me personally, and for the team to get back to winning ways is brilliant.”
With the funeral to contend with this week, the player who moved over from Haverhill Borough in the summer having started out at Rovers as a 17-year-old, wished to thank everyone for their support.
“The support we have been shown by everyone from this town, the one where he lives and everyone involved in Haverhill (Rovers), even people who didn’t know him, has been brilliant and it has really lifted myself and the family and helped us to get through it.”
A few of Bradley’s close friends had braved the cold at Long Melford’s Stoneylands on Friday to see him come on as a 55th minute substitute before hitting what proved to be the winner 13 minutes later.
It was his second goal of the season and lifted Rovers to eighth place and within three points of the top six.
“I have set up a few goals but obviously you need to score a few as well to really make your mark on the season,” said the player who has been deployed as an attacking central midfielder or out wide as part of a front three.
“It was my second goal of the season and hopefully there are many more to come.”
Bradley also revealed the proximity of the players to the town they represent has had a big bearing on their positive start to the campaign.
“I was at university, so I did not know much about what went on (last season) but I know it wasn’t very positive,” he said. “Because nearly all of the lads now are from Haverhill it brings a lot more support from the fans around town.
“It is more of a close-knit community club, which is what Haverhill is all about.
“It is about developing players from Haverhill and I think that is what Ben (Cowling, manager) is doing really well to move forward.”
Meanwhile, Cowling praised Bradley for the mental toughness he had shown.
“I am absolutely delighted for him and he has shown great character to come back in, so that is really pleasing,” he said.
Rovers’ Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup third round tie at divisional rivals Walsham-le-Willows on Wednesday night was postponed due to an unfit pitch and they are without a game this weekend.
Rovers return to league action on Tuesday when they visit second-placed Stanway Rovers (7.45pm).
Jonny Milne (hamstring) is a major doubt for the game.