STEPHENVILLE The marriage between Tim Groom and Stephenville’s senior men’s soccer club will be coming to an end soon.
Unlike most unions of that sort, this one was never likely to last forever, but it has certainly been mutually beneficial for the come-from-away looking for a game of soccer and the team desperate for a few good players to help them get back on the pitch.
Groom is from England — specifically a town called High Wycombe, not far from London. He’s been living in this province since last August and became a resident of Stephenville that September.
Roughly two years ago, back home, he met a girl named Sharon Farrell, originally from Marystown, who was teaching in England. She had been there for about eight years and was starting to feel the pangs of homesickness.
No problem, Groom told her — he’d simply go to Newfoundland with her, even though the 25-year-old didn’t know exactly where it was he was headed.
“Not at all, honestly,” he said. “I hardly even heard the name.”
Arriving last summer, after his girlfriend secured a teaching job in Stephenville, he found himself enjoying the province’s scenery and outdoor lifestyle.
Then winter hit. And hit hard.
“When it started getting cold, I wasn’t used to that,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m happy again now.”
Like many young men and women growing up in England, Groom developed a passion for the game of soccer — which is, of course, called football in his neck of the woods. Through her work, his girlfriend Sharon met Greg Keats, the coach of the Stephenville High School boys soccer team. Keats was organizing recreational indoor soccer games at the time and invited Groom to join in.
“I went and played indoor football a few times before Christmas,” he said.
Once the snow made its exit, and Keats began the process of trying to bring a Stephenville entrant back into the Corner Brook Molson Senior Men’s Soccer League for the first time since 2010, Groom decided he might as well lace up the cleats too.
The centre-back admits the local setup is better than he thought it would be, with the parity between the six teams coming as a welcome surprise.
“It was just me being fairly naive I guess, but I just assumed there was going to be one or two teams that really, really stood out,” he said.
There are a few big differences between the game here and the version of the sport he was accustomed to back in England. In High Wycombe, he said, he’d play Saturday afternoons for one team in a league that featured about 40 of them and then Sunday mornings for another squad in a league even larger. The soccer season would last about nine-and-a-half months, a far cry from the maybe-four months players get to enjoy here.
“It’s a bit of a culture shock,” he said. “I’ve gone years where I’ve broken my feet and still played more football than I have here.”
Another digression, and perhaps an unexpected one for some, is he had never played a competitive game back home on artificial turf like the Wellington Street Sports Complex — ever.
“It’s just nice to play on grass, I suppose,” he said of the reason behind that fact.
“You might use (artificial turf) for training during the winter because you don’t want to train on the grass pitch because you’ll chew it up.”
With his one-year visa expiring soon, he’s not sure how many more games he’ll get in this season, though he’s hoping to have enough played to be eligible for the playoffs. Just in case.
He’s already gotten an extension on his visa, but he needs to leave the country and come back through customs again for it to be activated, so he decided to take a trip home in the meantime.
Whether he winds up back in Stephenville or not depends entirely on where his girlfriend will be working in the fall. He expects to be back in this province somewhere, but the details are all still up in the air at this point.
He would be eager to finish what he started with his teammates and would relish the chance to help them pen a fairytale ending to their comeback campaign.
“We’ve got some good players I think,” he said of the Stephenville squad.
“Nothing is stopping that team from doing well in that league. Nothing at all.”