Nothing to lose but everything to gain in FA Cup next round
Loyalty can be a rare thing in football these days, but not at Haverhill Rovers — where one player turned down more money and a step up the league ladder to stay.
This was what Ryan Geoghegan, 24, chose to do when Mildenhall came knocking in the summer, convinced that Rovers were targeting a top two finish in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division.
If the team were to be promoted, with twice as many teams set to get a chance to jump up a level ahead of the FA’s re-organisation of the non-league pyramid coming into effect from 2018/19, they could join Mildenhall in the Bostik League at Step Three.
And his loyalty is already paying off as the side have won their first three fixtures —two league wins and an FA Cup victory.
“I love playing at Rovers and for the manager,” he said.
“I was approached by Mildenhall and they made an offer but, after speaking to Ben Cowling, it just didn’t feel like the right time.
“He understands I want to play higher, eventually, and didn’t try to stop me. But he did also make plain that he wanted to keep me.
“He helped me make my decision, even though I was already swaying towards staying anyway. But he explained his plan for the year and the team’s ambition. And I’m behind this 100 per cent.
“I want to be at the club to help it happen and I want to play at as high a level as I can. But it has to be at the right time.
“In the future it might be right.”
He added: “I’m still young, so I hope my decision has not caused any upset.
“Right now I’m just really happy with Rovers, the set-up and the team — we’re a really good bunch of guys.
“I definitely feel it’s the right decision now, given our unbeaten start to the season.”
The team, after their first successful start to the FA Cup since the 2013/14 season, have been rewarded with a home tie against former Isthmian League Cup winners Heybridge Swifts on Saturday (3pm).
The Bostik League Division One North side, who play at Scraley Road, play one level higher than Rovers in the National Football League Steps, and have enjoyed regular success in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup. As a Step Four side, it will be their first fixture in the annual competition.
Geoghegan said the motivation to do better in the FA Cup than past seasons was a key factor in deciding to stay.
“We’ve got a great chance this year,” the defender said.
“The FA Cup is a bit of a focus this year for us, we’ve been disappointed by our results over the past few years.
“But I think Ben’s got a good idea of what he wants to do with the squad and the season and there’s a real confidence and belief in the side.
“Rovers has always had a certain confidence, but it’s very noticeable now.
“And it’s also noticeable that there’s a real desire to go far in the FA Cup — we made it past the first round by beating Hoddesdon Town, and are now targeting the Preliminary Round this weekend.
“We’re the underdogs obviously,” he said. “But we’re confident as the underdogs.
“The pressure is completely off now and that can be very liberating for a side to produce their best. We go into it with everything to gain.”