New goal in life for Alan Arber - a man of many clubs

Alan Arber, reflecting on his 1981 FA Sunday Cup final appearance with Mackintosh, is enjoying a new

Alan Arber, reflecting on his 1981 FA Sunday Cup final appearance with Mackintosh, is enjoying a new challenge at the Longdale Park football centre. - Credit: Archant © 2009

One of Norfolk's most well-travelled footballers has a fresh goal in life after taking the helm at a new soccer centre.

Alan Arber, a familiar figure between the sticks at various levels up to Norwich City Reserves and the England non-league team, has been appointed manager at the new facility at Thorpe Marriott.

A project spearheaded by Drayton Parish Council with the aid of a Sport England grant has seen a £50,000 centre established on the site of former tennis courts at Longdale Park.

'They wanted someone with a football background to run it. I was approached and was happy to take it on,' said Alan, who is being assisted by Helen Pepper, operating in an administrative role. He described the latest chapter of his love affair with the beautiful game as 'a fantastic challenge.'

'We have only really just started on the journey. Having finished playing it's nice to still be involved in some way, ' said Alan, 54, who also turned out for Wroxham, Lowestoft and Bury, and managed Mulbarton and Attleborough.

In 1981 Arber was the goalkeeper for the Norwich Sunday League side Mackintosh which was beaten 1-0 by Fantail in the final of the FA Sunday Cup. Later that decade he turned out three time for an England's non league team.

In recent years he has been involved with Trafford Vets, but is now chairman of South Norfolk Saturday League side Nostro Bulls and Norwich Sunday League side SDC United.

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The purpose-built centre has markings for two pitches for junior sides as well as a seven-a- side pitch with swing-out goals for the adult age groups.

It has the latest 3g surface that can be played on even in sub-zero temperatures. The surrounding fence is a special bounce fence that allows players to play off the fence at all times.

There is a safety net across the top of the pitch which encourages good football techniques and teaches teams to play on the floor. At the moment the centre is open on six days a week (Monday to Fridays 8-4 and Saturdays 8.30-lunchtime).

'There is room for it to be open more if people want it more. It's open to anyone that wants to use it subject to the slots being available,' said Alan.

The centre is being heavily used by Drayton Youth FC, a Charter Standard club, which under the chairmanship of Colin Gansom runs teams from the age of 6 to 16.

'They value the new centre very much as it provides a quality surface for the children of all ages to play and train on which is something not many youth football clubs have on their doorstep.

'The best thing for me is when you see it full and you see the smiles on the children's faces. It's a wonderful facility that is hopefully going to be used to its full potential in the next couple of years. It's something I am really passionate about.'

The centre is also being used by Taverham FC, and Nostro Bulls, a multi-cultural men's side that runs two teams.

There are plans to introduce a goalkeeper academy run by Barri Twinn of the Just 4 Keepers coaching school at the centre.

The centre also runs pay and play sessions for anyone not attached to a club.

There are plans to run a series of friendly leagues in the summer for all age groups from the youngest, through to adults and ladies and, possibly veterans.

It is hoped that the centre will be officially opened by a Norwich City star on a day when the young talent will be showcased.

The centre has a Facebook page, which is Longdale Park and Twitter account Longdalepark3g.

Contact the administrator Alan Arber on or phone 07813190516.

Barri Twinn runs courses for all age groups and can be contacted on and 01603280428.