VETERANS COUNTY CUP: BIRTHDAY boy Pat Hayes – who has been involved with Hullbridge Sports for 45 years – is ready for a massive weekend for his club. Hayes, who is 66 today, is the manager of Sports’ vets side, who will battle for the Veterans County Cup at Burroughs Park on Sunday morning.

And retired Ford Dunton worker Hayes and the team’s co-manager Con Keilty are well up for the challenge.

He said: “We’re really looking forward to playing Chapel United. “They’re a great team and I hate to predict matches because I’ve been involved in too many and know that anything can happen.

“But whatever the result we are going to enjoy ourselves.

“And at this level of football that’s what it’s all about.”

And Hayes is certainly not kidding when he says he has seen a lot of football at Lower Road. He has played or managed 1,500 matches since getting involved with the club back in 1969.

He said: “Before coming to Hullbridge I’d been playing at Collier Row, playing in the Spartan League. “Then I made the move to Hullbridge and was soon playing Saturdays and Sundays.”

The pensioner has served in virtually every post at Sports from fixtures secretry to chairman – and he currently works as one of their unofficial groundsmen.

He joked: “Nowadays the group of us who look after the pitches – after Gordon Chittock retired last year – are known here as ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’ boys. “I’m there with Terry Sourfield, Fred Dennis and Dave Whiffin in the week trying to get the pitches right. “We take care of four senior pitches and there are six in total when you include the youth pitches.

“It is about 17 acres in total so we are kept pretty busy. But that’s what being involved with a club is all about. “You’ve so much history at a place that you feel a part of it and a part of the community. There will be blokes playing in the veterans final on Sunday who started out here as seven-year olds.

“The club’s always been a big part of my life, whether I was playing, managing, helping to run things or cutting the grass. “Like a lot of people here, you feel like you’re part of a dynasty. “And my sons Barry, Terry and Drew all played.”

Hullbridge made their way to the final by way of a thrilling extra time victory over Sutton Sports on March 9.

But the match on Sunday will not be Hayes’ first county final. His then first team – managed with Ray Savall – made the Essex FA’s Intermediate final in 1988. Hullbridge press officer Neil Hunwicks said: “Sunday will be a great occasion for Pat. “He’s been a huge part of this club and has played and managed at a lot of different levels within the last 45 years.

“His main passsion these days is the veterans side. “And I know he keeps all the birthday dates of other players at Hullbridge, so as soon as they ‘come of age’ – there is no escaping.

“To give 45 years to a club is something special.

“But to be part of a team to reach the county cup final in his 45th year is really amazing.

“The club will be turning out in force to wish Pat and the rest of the team well.”