MONDAY marks the end of an era for Aveley as they play their final game at Mill Field after 65 years.
The Bank Holiday fixture against AFC Hornchurch will be Aveley’s last home game of the season, as they bid to keep alive their faint Ryman North play-off hopes.
The Millers will make the short trip up the road to play their football at Parkside next season, with the £4.8 million sporting facility currently being built.
Club secretary Craig Johnson has been involved at Aveley since 1979 – and has been given the moniker ‘Mr Aveley’ for his dedication over the years.
And Johnson said the day will be tinged with sadness.
“It is tinged with sadness as it’s a great little stadium,” he said. “I spend half my life trying to repair things here and people say ‘why don’t you spend some money on it’ but the truth is we can’t spend money because we have no money.
“We are asset rich and cash poor but that has allowed us to realise this dream.
“It is no secret that Aveley is my life and has been for many years. It has been a dream of mine to help us move forward and has been tried by people since 1984 without success.
“So I am privileged to help move us forward.”
Johnson played for Aveley as a 16 year-old in 1979, before making his first team debut two years later.
After that he moved to Hornchurch, before becoming player/manager at Witham Town aged 26.
He became Aveley manager in 1993 and spent more than four years as manager before becoming secretary, programme editor and all-around handy-man.
And he has encouraged fans to come out in their droves to support the team in the match against AFC Hornchurch, which will kick-off at 6.30pm.
“I am preparing the souvenir programme for the last game and there has been a lot of interest in it from people who can’t make it to the game,” he said.
“It made sense to move the kick-off time as I wanted to make it as accessible as possible.
“(Hornchurch manager) Jimmy (McFarlane) agreed and it would be great to see a good crowd. We had 303 people here on Saturday and that was brilliant.”
Another man who will miss Mill Field is the club’s longest serving manager Justin Gardner.
Gardner stepped down earlier this season – citing ‘personal reasons’ - and is currently assistant manager at Ryman Premier League side Billericay Town.
“It is a sad day but it is something that was needed,” he said. “The old girl was coming to an end and the club is now moving to wonderful facilities and it will be up there with the best in the league.
“People have always slagged off the pitch but I saw the work Craig put in there. It wasn’t the greatest but my teams always played good football on it.
“I have many happy memories there. Getting into the play-offs in 2012/13 was a great feeling and Pet Elbi’s last minute free-kick against Harlow Town will live long in the memory, as was beating brentwood on my wedding day.”
Johnson confirmed construction for the new ground was two weeks behind schedule, but said it was on course to be finished by the start of the new season, with much of the pre-season programme to take place away from home.