MILLWALL’S record ever goalscorer Neil Harris has thrown his weight behind Rayleigh Boys’ plan to find a new permanent home.
The club want to use land north of the old London Road in Rayleigh for eight pitches and a storage container.
And Harris, who started his own career with Rayleigh Boys, thinks it should definitely get the green light at tomorrow night’s Rochford District Council development control meeting.
“Personally I think it would be an absolute disgrace if it gets turned down,” said Harris, who has netted 122 goals for the Lions.
“We’re talking about using an area of land for a couple of hours at a weekend so it would be really bizarre if it wasn’t allowed.
“In this day and age we’re forever being reminded that kids are unhealthy and overweight, so it’s great that these youngsters want to get out and play football and not just sit in front of their computers.”
Harris remains involved with Rayleigh Boys as his son Cameron now plays for the club.
Left-back Matt Lockwood, who is currently on loan at Barnet from Colchester United, also starred for the same side as Harris during their youth and he too wants them to have their own home.
“It’s just common sense to me that the decision should go their way,” said Lockwood.
“The club does a lot for the town and I think they deserve this.”
Brian Mitchell, one of the founders of the club, echoed those sentiments and hopes it can be a case of fifth time lucky.
“We’ve tried four times before and have never been successful, so fingers crossed it can be different this time,” said Mitchell.
“At the moment we play some of our games at Fairview and some at Grove Park but other matches have to get called off because we have nowhere to play, which seems crazy.
“Forest Glade in Billericay have an excellent home and that’s what we want to have, especially when you consider the size of the club.”
Rayleigh Boys, who are an FA Charter Development Club, are now the biggest youth football club in Essex with 38 teams and 438 children on their books.
And chairman Martin Shields wants that to be rewarded.
“I hope the council do the right thing and say yes,” said Shields. “It makes perfect sense for us to go there and I hope they see that.”
“We understand that some residents will have concerns, but we are committed to working with the neighbours and will, if approved, invite a local resident onto our committee so that the residents have input into what we are doing.”
“We believe this can be a legacy for thousands of children in the future and would ensure no houses were built on this green space.
“The club can only thank Neil and Matt for their support and the more than 500 letters of support that have been submitted from residents of Rayleigh, Rawreth and the surrounding areas.”