Haddington Athletic savouring 75th anniversary celebrations

Haddington in 1939, their year of formation
Haddington in 1939, their year of formation
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Haddington Athletc could celebrate their 75th Anniversary year with one of their greatest seasons ever.

Under the stewardship of manager Johnny Harvey, the Millfield men have already broken records with their best-ever start – winning their first seven league games to storm to the top of the South Division.

For the perennial nearly men, the focus is on maintaining their current form for as long as possible and gaining promotion to the Premier League. This Sunday, they have the exciting distraction of a game at home to Hearts Under-20s as they mark their 75th year. The two clubs have had a strong affiliation ever since Hearts donated a set of strips to the East Lothian side in 1939, their year of formation.

Club secretary Tom Thornton, who joined the committee as a 16-year-old in 1985, is thrilled at the club’s stunning start to life under new manager Harvey, but knows that there is a long way to go yet.

He said: “We’ve been trying repeatedly to get out of the South Division; this is our ninth season here. At this moment in time things are going quite well, but we have been in this position before and promotion has always remained elusive.

“We’ve only had one tangible success while I’ve been involved – winning the old Division Two title in 1999. We have always been there or thereabouts. The frustrations at falling at the final hurdle have been very disappointing, but things have started far better than we could have possibly expected given the upheaval over the close-season.”

The Millfield men, whose 1999 league triumph came under John Cockerell and Alan Miller (now manager of Newtongrange Star), have struggled to get back to the top since relegation from the old Division One in 2002.

The introduction of the Super League in season 2002/03 saw Haddington effectively relegated two divisions due to league restructuring and they have since remained in that division – now named the South Division – with former boss Stevie McLeish coming closest to taking the Hi-Hi into the Premier League.

Although Haddington were installed as favourites to lift the league title at the start of the season, manager Harvey could never have expected the start they’ve made given the turnover of playing staff in the summer.

Just one player remained at Millfield from McLeish’s reign, with Harvey having to bring in a whole new squad after moving from Edinburgh United. He said: “About a week or two after I took over the job I was thinking let’s have a reasonable season and we can build for next year. Anything above mid-table would’ve been a bonus.

“It’s really pleasing to be in the position we are and if we can cap that off with promotion or whatever at the end of the season, it would definitely cap off a good 75th season for the club.

“There are still massive improvements to be made and I feel we can get better as the season goes on.

“I think it’s good what we are doing just now, but I can see weaknesses in places where we can improve and I’m striving for it to be even better.”

• Haddington are also hosting an anniversary dinner at Haddington Golf Club on November 29. Any former players or managers interested in attending should contact Tom Thornton on 07878 333586.