Wardley’s key role in Rovers’ revival

STUART Wardley’s reward for accepting the challenge offered to him by Haverhill Rovers is a top-four spot in the Premier Division of the Ridgeons League.

Rovers, who today visit FC Clacton, currently sit in fourth spot, and seven wins in a row has seen them open up a significant 10-point gap on fifth-placed Kirkley & Pakefield with three games in hand.

Former Queens Park Rangers player Wardley was managing Bishop’s Stortford Swifts when Rovers’ boss Peter Betts enticed him to join Rovers at the start of last season.

Rovers had endured a torrid time in the 2008/09 season, finishing rock bottom of the Premier Division, but Wardley admitted he was tempted by Betts’ offer.

The 36-year-old explained: “Peter gave me a call to see if I wanted to play at this level, and it was a challenge that I fancied.

“Two years ago Haverhill were rock bottom. Last year the club brought new players in who did pretty well to finish in mid-table, which was good considering the season they had before.

“We moved to our new ground at the start of this season and the facilities and pitch here are excellent. The club is moving in the right direction, and if we can keep building on that it will continue to go only one way.”

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Indeed, Rovers’ revival has inspired the club to apply to move up to Step Four football, should they finish high enough in the Ridgeons League this season.

Wardley, who was plucked from non-league football by QPR in the summer of 1999 for a fee of �15,000, went on to play 87 times in the Football League for the Loftus Road side, scoring 14 goals from midfield.

However, it is in the back four that Wardley, who subsequently had spells with Rushden & Diamonds, Torquay United, Leyton Orient and Cambridge United, is to be found these days.

He has played a starring role in the centre of defence, as well as chipping in with a few goals, as Rovers have proved to be the surprise packet in the Premier Division this season following their move to the New Croft.

Wardley said: “I am getting on a bit now, so have declared myself as a centre half! We have got a great bunch of lads here and I am enjoying my football more now than in previous years.

“When I was young I had to perform really well all the time, whereas now I am just happy to be out there on the pitch, There is not so much pressure on me compared to what there used to be when I had to perform every week in the professional game.”

Wardley, who took on the role of assistant manager to Betts at the start of the season, continued: “I am happy to help develop the young lads in the club. I don’t do a massive amount on the pitch - I just help Peter get the players up for games and do some of the training with them.”

He added: “As long as I am enjoying it I will continue to play for as long as I am able to, as people say you will miss it once you retire.”

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