EAST Thurrock United manager John Coventry has paid tribute – and issued a public thanks – to striker Sam Higgins who has returned to the Ryman Premier club to help in their battle against relegation.
Higgins, who has a close relationship with Coventry going back many years, left the Rocks set-up in the close season to join Conference South Concord Rangers and he has played a prominent part in helping establish them in that division.
While Concord have been surpassing the expectations of many football observers, East Thurrock have struggled and have found scoring goals to be at a premium.
Which prompted Coventry to make what he acknowledges was a very difficult request of the player he has mentored and worked with since he was a youngster.
“We have struggled up top this season and we have got to a point where I needed to do something to try and lift the club,” said Coventry. “Sam is a very talented player and I know that he has all the qualities to give us a fighting chance of moving up the table. But I know that I was putting him in a difficult situation because he was enjoying his time at Concord which is a very good club with very good people.
“He enjoys proving his worth at a higher level and I know he felt a debt of loyalty to the people at Concord so it was a very difficult thing for him to even consider my request to come back and help us out.
“It wasn’t something I did lightly in asking because I have great respect for everybody at Concord and I knew they would be upset because Sam is such a good player and a part of their success but sometimes in football you have to make some very difficult decisions and I have to try and do the best for my club.
“I would have respected Sam if he had said he felt he had to stay at Concord and it would not have affected our relationship, but he responded positively because he has a special place in his heart for East Thurrock and because of that he has gone up even further in my estimation.
“He’s a fantastic lad and he has shown by doing this for me and as a favour to our club, that sometimes football is much more than about money and status. It’s about friendship and loyalty. I dare say some people at Concord feel loyalty isn’t the right word but I would ask them to try and understand where Sam’s heart lies.
He has done a good job for Concord and he has honoured his obligations to them. I know that the people at Concord are like the people at East Thurrock. They are passionate about their club and proud of what they have achieved. So knowing how much being at the highest level you can stay at as a club means to them, I hope they will understand why I have to try and keep East Thurrock at our highest level.
“I know Concord have the players, the passion and the commitment to continue to do well in the Conference South – and possibly beyond that – and I hope that as local neighbours we can both continue to grow together and the friendships and rivalries, which we have in equal measure, will continue.”
Higgins played his first game for Rocks on Tuesday evening and made an immediate impact, scoring a superb free kick in a 2-0 win against high-flying Kingstonian.
“He was everything I knew he would be for us and I am sure he will help us kick start our season,” said Coventry. “And the first thing I did after the final whistle was look at the scores to see how Concord got on and was so delighted they had won as well.”