Hart of the Matter
Have you been along to support your local football team yet this season? No? Shame on you! Well, perhaps not, because I canít say I have been a regular follower of Haverhill Rovers through the years, other than through the medium of print.
Football has never been my favourite sport to watch, and this yearís World Cup didnít do much to change that. I find, in general, that the score doesnít change often enough to make the game interesting to me.
All the expert fans will no doubt be taking in the details of the formations being played, the weaknesses in each team and how they could be exploited, the various tactics at set pieces and in defence and attack and all the rest of it, which subtleties, I am afraid, are mostly lost on me.
I cannot watch too many things at once, so I tend just to look at where the ball is, and the players near it. The rest of the 22 players on the field can be working their socks off getting into or out of position and I wonít notice at all.
However, I have to admit that the new football facility in Chalkstone Way, known as the New Croft, is a very pleasant place to go to watch a game.
In such agreeable surroundings, even an old summer game fan like me can be persuaded of the enjoyment of watching 90 minutes or so of cut and thrust between 11 players in red (us) and 11 players in some other colour (them), and willing the red ones on, especially when we win (as we have done each time I have attended so far).
So far there seems to have been quite a family atmosphere pervading the New Croft, partly because itís August and the weather hasnít been that unfriendly. Weíll see what itís like on a freezing January Saturday with the rain cutting through you sideways, as it will inevitably do in such a windy location.
But whether or not football is my cup of tea, I cannot fail to be aware of how important it is within a community, wherever it may be, from Old Trafford to New Croft.
Like cricket, but in a completely different way, it mirrors life, with its rhythms of start-stop, its sudden changes of pace and its complex inter-relationships between the participants. Elements of it can easily be transformed into metaphors for life.
We all want goals to achieve, we pass ideas on from one to another, we make space for ourselves and we rise to the challenge. We may not have a very firm understanding of the offside rule, and we may not be able to explain it to someone else, but we know what is meant by stealing a march on someone, or flagging something up.
The New Croft will have to be different from its predecessor Hamlet Croft, if it is to be viable. Much as the old ground was beloved of its stalwart crowd, it was superannuated Ė almost a leftover from a previous age, a dinosaur on the edge of the town centre.
Although the New Croft is on the edge of the town itself, it will need to become part of the heart of the community, and early signs are that it already is. A lot more things are happening there than just football.
Saturday afternoon may be the showpiece of the week and, in many ways, the reason why the new stadium is there, but what goes on all through the week, from committee meetings to line dancing, will be just as important.
The training facilities are of high quality and will enable hordes of youngsters to be brought on in the sport (we hope), from which one might hope further success will emerge for the club on the field.
Business people from the town are in charge of the project, which is how it should be. In any voluntary organisation Ė and Rovers is no different Ė the people who are good at the activity which the organisation exists to promote need to be allowed to get on with it and not be continually distracted by financial or logistical worries which would detract from their performance.
It is very encouraging to see professional people giving up their time and energy to an important voluntary plank of the community, and those who have been closely involved with bringing the football facility into existence should be congratulated for their hard work and commitment.
It was also inspiring to see senior players having such an interest in the success of the project that they became involved in its public relations. Local residents who found Haverhill Roversí captain had taken the trouble to knock on their door and ask them if they had any concerns must have been impressed.
It speaks of a club which cares and which breeds responsibility among its members. That would seem to give confidence that this will become a much-valued and successful community facility Ė and I hope I can get along from time to time and witness more onfield success.