‘The pitch looks fan­tas­tic and peo­ple will be blown away’

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Football - By An­drew Gi­d­ley

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.”

Pic­tures: Gary Browne

Owner Don Cros­bie, left, and vol­un­teers

lay the new 3G pitch at Home­lands

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