Haverhill Rovers to celebrate 40th anniversary of Eastern Counties League title triumph with football festival at The New Croft
It may have been 40 years since Haverhill Rovers claimed their only Eastern Counties League Premier Division title, but it is far from a distant memory.
The Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division club will celebrate the lifting of the 1978/79 league title on the Spring Bank Holiday, with a football festival that will see many past players – including a lot of the championship winning team – don the all-red kit once more.
The club has also won one Eastern Counties League Cup title – in 1964/65 – as well as one Suffolk Senior Cup in 1996/97.
And the event, former player Julian Harding said, is also about ‘celebrating over one hundred years of Rovers’ history’ with the club welcoming some former players to The New Croft for the first ever time.
“That season in 1978/79 was the only time we’ve ever won the Eastern Counties title,” Harding, a member of the Senior Cup winning Rovers team, said.
“And that’s worth celebrating, the team hold legendary status and rightly so.
“Forty years is a perfect opportunity to get them back at the club and celebrate their achievement as well as everything that has followed.
“Since the club moved to The New Croft (in the 2009/10 season), a sense of that history sort of got left behind, the new place doesn’t have the soul of the old Croft (Hamlet Croft) and it’s time we gave it some.
“The whole point is to connect the past with the present, and for everyone that is passionate about the club to come together and celebrate.
“I’m pretty sure there will be some former players come along who have never been to the new place.
“We need to make it our home and make it feel like Rovers, an event like this will help.”
Rovers finished the 1978/79 season just one point ahead of runners-up Great Yarmouth Town after a competitive season for the club.
They won 29 of their 42 fixtures, drawing nine, as they claimed their only Eastern Counties league crown to date.
Harding – who has been instrumental in getting many former players involved in the event – will be joined by former players from across the decades including league winning team captain Danny Green, Steve Murray, Stuart Hall, Neil Farley, Brian Holmes, Derek Richardson and Marcus Hunt – team captain when the club relocated to the current site.
And Harding is hoping to arrange a veterans’ game with enough former players involvement.
“I’m trying to get two different teams together of old players, I think we’ve got enough,” he said.
“And I’m hoping they’ll face a Sawston and a Castle Camps vets side in two semi-finals, to battle it out in a final.
“Our women’s team will also be involved, and I think they may play a mini tournament, there’ll be youth teams as well, so there’s going to be a lot of football on show.
“I really hope the weather is good to us, and that we can get at least a few hundred people to The New Croft, it’s going to be a great day.”
Current Premier Division champions Histon have also agreed to lend the league cup for the day and it will be in pride of place at The New Croft, vice chairman Alastair Shulver said.
Harding added that the management team of the 1978/79 winning team, Roger Staples and assistant Tony Brightwell, would also be in attendance.
The day will then be finished off with a testimonial for Hunt, who has played for the club for most of his adult football career and was captain for one of the biggest games in the club’s history, contesting the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.
Rovers reached that stage in the 2006/07 season, playing then-Conference side Aldershot in front of approximately 2,000 supporters at the old Hamlet Croft.
The club hope the day will appeal to all ages and be ‘a fun filled day for all the family’.
The event will begin at 10am with a youth tournament with the adult competitions beginning from midday.
There will be a barbecue, inflatables, bouncy castles and music, as well as an ice cream van, with an entry fee of £3.