When men like Jim Patterson and Eddie Miller decided to form a team to provide football for those boys who couldn’t get a place in their school football team, they probably little realised how much those teams would multiply.
That was in 1969. Both men lived in the Roffey area, and their 12-year-old boys were at Forest School. The school-uniform colour for football was red and, with most families struggling financially, it was wisely decided that the boys would play in red for Roffey Robins also. We could, perhaps, have become Roffey Reds F.C., but Roffey Robins identified the colour in a subtle way, and also aligned the boys with the fighting spirit of that small bird. Those Roffey Robins boys are now men of over 40, and we are already seeing their children playing for the club.
About the same time, other teams were being formed, and with names also drawn from the world of animals and birds. We saw Sparrows, Tigers and Beavers emerge, and soon we had the formation of the Horsham Mini-Minor League – a name that remained until 1997, when it was superseded by the Horsham and District Youth Football League, in order to reflect the larger catchment area, and the presence of teams including youths aged under 16. Organised football, for those who could not make their school teams was really under way on Saturdays.
Suitable pitches was an early problem, but Eddie Miller, who had by now become a councillor, persuaded the Horsham District Council to provide – free of charge – pitches in Horsham Park. ‘At a stroke’, he did all youth football clubs in the town a great and lasting service. The strike by schoolteachers, and the subsequent lack of support for after-school activities in the late 1970s meant that school teams effectively began to disappear, and more teams consequently joined the Horsham Mini-Minor League.
The demand for additional pitches increased. Roffey Robins, by now, had pitches at the Rugby Club, St. John’s School, Coolhurst, Roffey Recreation Field, Langhurst, The Cornfield, The Needles, and Redford Avenue, as well as Horsham Park. Managers didn’t have to worry about nets, as nobody could afford them. There were odd disputes about which side of the post the ball had passed, but generally there was accord.
In the early days, boys provided their own kit of red shirts, white shorts and red stockings with white hoops at the top. In general, the way the boys turned out, under the circumstances, was a great credit to their parents, themselves and the club. Managers were provided with a match ball and a training ball, and it was expected that they would last for several seasons. Training facilities were few and far between. Managers were usually able to use the gyms at either Forest or Collyers School, once every six weeks, and so, at best, that was five or six sessions during the season.
Early Philosophy and our ‘Sense of Family’.
Fund-raising, to ensure that we were able to provide football for everybody who wanted to play, was an early key to our subsequent success. Christmas Dances in the Main Hall at Forest School, supported by a raffle, and followed by Summer Barn Dances at the Rugby Club, were the beginnings of the kind of income generation achieved today. The good ‘family atmosphere’ generated sufficient funds, in the early days, to ensure that we could always continue for 12 months, even if ‘times became really hard’, and the club subsequently failed. We also had jumble sales at the Roffey Institute, in order to provide extra training balls, and even nets!
As the collective thrust, and family spirit developed, the managers and their wives formed a stoolball team, and played friendly games, in Horsham Park and at Langhurst, during the summer months. Indoor football was played in the newly opened Horsham Park Leisure Centre, and we were staying together as a group, on a social basis, more during the ‘close season’. We marked our 10th Anniversary with a Dinner and Dance at the George Hotel at Crawley, with over 150 people attending – we were really ‘on our way’! We were also beginning to produce the occasional league and cup winners, and were always recognised for our sportsmanship on the field of play. In addition, we were strong supporters of the then Horsham Mini-Minor League, providing the Chairman, and Divisional Representatives on a very regular basis.
Every ship needs a good captain and at our helm from the beginning, and still there today, is a President who has done much to ensure our early survival and subsequent growth. Terry Hardy has been the cornerstone of our emerging club. In his own quiet and supportive way, he has given the strength and confidence for us to participate in six-a-side tournaments throughout the county, to travel to France, Belgium and Holland for football tours and to promote the name of Roffey Robins F.C. Whilst his support has been essential, it has been the enthusiasm, commitment and resourcefulness of the managers and parents, which have made all that followed possible.
Breaking new ground
Roffey Robins has two main committees. The Executive Committee meets every fourth Thursday, and deals with the financial stability of the club, its duties to the league and its overall strategic direction. The Management Committee meets on the first Thursday in the month, at the Roffey Social and Sports Club, and deals with the more ‘day-to-day’ footballing issues. During the last thirty-five years, we have become better organised, and generally more efficient in all that we do.
After about 10 years, we reached the point where we had some money, over and above our need to finance a season’s activity without any income. After much discussion, it was decided that we should ‘invest in the boys’, by providing them with a club six-a-side tournament, which would include everybody, and would ensure that each boy had a memento of the occasion. That was in 1980, and the event was held at the Rugby Club. It was, we agreed, a great success, and was repeated the following year. That event, known as our ‘Family Day’, continued annually for the next 21 years, and became very much part of Roffey Robins folklore. However, things move on, parents become ever more busy, and summers now bring many six-a-side tournaments. As a result, we decided that the Family Day had ‘run its course’, and was superseded by the ‘Open Tournament’
Our 21st birthday arrived in 1990, and was marked by an anniversary dinner held in the Barn in Horsham Park, with 40 or more people from the past and present in attendance – a great success!
Now here we are, celebrating 50 years! A huge achievement for a grassroots football club. We have strong Executive and Management Committees who are proactively looking for ways to improve the club further, for example this website you are reading from, bringing a fresh new look. With a regular 170+ boys and girls signing on each year we are still providing plenty of footballing opportunities in the local area.