Gareth Baldwin: Could Histon's loss be Cambridge's gain?

THE news that former Histon supremo Gareth Baldwin this week joined Cambridge United Football Club is still being digested by many in the non-league world. One man who has watched Gareth and Histon s rise up the non-league pyramid, is Archant s MIKE BACON

THE news that former Histon supremo Gareth Baldwin this week joined Cambridge United Football Club is still being digested by many in the non-league world.

One man who has watched Gareth and Histon's rise up the non-league pyramid, is Archant's MIKE BACON. Here he gives his thoughts.

I CAN'T remember the exact date, just the phone call.

"Hello Mike, Gareth Baldwin from Histon here.

You may also want to watch:

"Do you fancy coming over to watch us next week? My guest, we can have a chat?

"Oh, and bring Neal Manning with you (my deputy). Love to see you both."

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As editor of the Green'Un Football Star, in Ipswich in the mid-late 90s, Histon wasn't exactly on my doorstep.

But the Cambridgeshire team had recently been elected to play in the Eastern Counties League, and that meant I was now far more interested in them.

A night out to Histon it was then.

Back then, and with my football career a distant memory, I still craved the non-league scene.

Getting out to watch local sides, meet local people and make local contacts, was something I knew had plenty of mileage for any sound sports writer who wanted to talk up his or her product.

So Histon v Felixstowe & Walton it was, as I drove the hour up the A14 to Bridge Road.

I remember a few personal stats from my first visit to Histon Football Club.

Ground: 4/10

Programme: 5/10

Attendance: About 35

Welcome: 10/10.

Quote to note: "Don't call us Histon Town, we are just Histon".

Yes, the football was okay, yes the programme was satisfactory, no, the attendance wasn't impressive, but the genuine warm welcome from Gareth Baldwin and Lisa, his then wife-to-be, was something I will always remember.

The non-league game is, invariably, a friendlier set-up, with committeemen and women, directors and players all more than willing to give you the time of day.

Histon were no different.

I struck up a friendship with Gareth from the off.

There were no airs and graces, no smart comments - it wasn't talk the talk with Gareth Baldwin, it was walk the walk.

I can't for the life of me remember the score in that particular game, just the sausage and chips afterwards.

A novel idea as players, officials and press tucked into what appeared, a constant supply from the local chippy, one of the first of Gareth's many innovations at Bridge Road.

From then on, I marvelled at the way the club moved seamlessly through the League pyramid. This tiny village club with an army of volunteers, all players having to "buy in" to the Histon way, with Gareth at the helm.

As the Stutes continued their meteoric rise, Gareth was never too busy to talk about Histon, despite his busy day-to-day business needs.

And even after the Stutes achieved what, up to now, has been their highest point - an FA Cup victory over Leeds United - Gareth was courteous enough to call me in the office that Sunday night after I left him a message to ask for a quote or two.

I'll continue to watch Histon's results with interest and hope they continue their march up the pyramid. I know in his heart Gareth will only want Histon FC to continue to grow.

However, and I'm no big Cambridge United fan, but the truth from where I'm standing is, Histon's loss is Cambridge United's gain.

U's fans - trust me - off the pitch, you've just signed an absolute diamond in Gareth Baldwin.

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