‘The pitch looks fantastic and people will be blown away’
Owner Don Crosbie is excited as the clock ticks down on Ashford United’s first game on their new 3G pitch at Homelands
The club’s under-18s have the honour of being the first team to play on the new surface when they host Eastbourne Borough in the Ryman Youth League Lucas Fettes Cup first round tie tonight (Thursday).
United cleared the final hurdle when the FIFA-appointed authorised agent passed the pitch last week, following a series of delays and setbacks in laying the new surface which has cost in the region of £400,000.
The paperwork was completed earlier this week, only for the club’s scheduled first senior game against Deal Town to be called off on Tuesday night, due to the opponents being involved in an FA Cup replay against Whitstable.
Mr Crosbie oversaw the project himself and had hoped to have it completed by early July but the delays led to the postponement of the opening day Southern Counties East League fixture at home to Beckenham on August 8, with the club subsequently charged in accordance with rule 8.6 with failing to fulfil the fixture.
He was due to face a league commission last night (Wednesday) but speaking before the hearing said: “We should be commended not reprimanded for what we have done for football.
“I am disappointed and angry we were charged because we had plans in place to play the game and these were rejected.”
He added: “This project has not been about me or my family but the long-term future of Ashford United – the next 10 years not six or seven weeks. We are here for the long haul and to create a legacy for local football in the area.
“The pitch looks fantastic and people will be blown away when they see the transformation.
“We will have an official opening of some kind but it’s not about us showing off saying ‘look what we have got’.
“We have just been getting on with the job and everyone involved has worked exceptionally hard. Our band of volunteers, many of them retired, have been fantastic.
“They aren’t looking for praise but everyone of them should be proud of what they have achieved and all can say ‘I played a part in it’.
“I am looking forward to seeing what happens during the winter when games are being called off around the county because of waterlogged pitches.
“People will then say didn’t Ashford United do a fantastic job, moving with the times and not staying in the doldrums.”
Mr Crosbie also revealed he is helping 15 other clubs, including some in Kent, who he wouldn’t name, offering them the same business model in their quest to install artificial pitches.
He added: “Facilities like this should be used 24/7 – not just six or seven hours during the week.
“We have got 300 boys signed on and our present under-18 side could be our first team in a couple of years’ time.
“All the teams will train together and the same way, so if a player is promoted into the senior side, it will be seamless.”
Owner Don Crosbie, left, and volunteers
lay the new 3G pitch at Homelands