Departed Bradford (Park Avenue) stalwart Luca Havern admits he could not imagine life at the club without Mark Bower and Danny Boshell, with the sacking of manager and assistant last month a major factor in his decision to leave Horsfall last Saturday after five-and-a-half seasons at Horsfall.

Reflecting on his two vastly different spells at Avenue, from 2017 to 2019, then 2020 to 2023, Havern claimed Avenue were perhaps not ready for the promotion to the National League they looked set for in 2018-19, and that things never fully recovered from there.

That is a distant memory now, with Bradford fighting against the drop in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, with a second successive relegation a real possibility.

That hurts Havern, but he is content with his decision to leave, which comes off the back of a brief spell as player/interim manager, having initially taken on his first coaching role this summer.

He told the T&A: “It was really tough to leave the club because I’d been there for so many years.

“Bows and Bosh had moved on and I couldn’t commit to being the first-team manager.

“The club asked me to interview for the role, but the new boss coming in has to be able to give their all to the first team and academy, and I couldn’t make the time for that with my work commitments.”

Asked if he had considered staying on as a player, given he was still arguably one of Avenue’s best defenders, Havern said: “Really the role I had this season was as player/coach.

“I wasn’t really expecting to play every week, but then injuries came and the results weren’t there for us, so I ended up lining up at centre-half quite a few times.

“But ultimately, I came here for Mark and Danny, and I just couldn’t see myself working under a different management team, either as a player or a coach.”

Avenue are expected to announce a permanent new first-team manager in the coming days or weeks, but for now, academy technical director Tom McStravick will be in temporary charge.

Havern has given his full backing to the Northern Irishman, saying both he and interim assistant Oli Johnson had been a huge help on the touchline in the last couple of weeks when the defender was forced out of the dugout and into centre-half.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Luca Havern (second right) alongside Oli Johnson on the touchline for Avenue's home game against Matlock Town last month.Luca Havern (second right) alongside Oli Johnson on the touchline for Avenue's home game against Matlock Town last month. (Image: Martin Taylor)

The last six months as a coach, then interim manager, have not put Havern off that side of football thankfully.

He said: “I’ve loved my time coaching and I want to thank the lads at Avenue for buying into how I wanted to do things.

“I didn’t look to change too much, but I wanted to better them as their coach, and just raise the standards and their confidence, putting my own spin on things.

“I loved working with OJ and the players, both on the sidelines on matchday and on the grass in training.

“I think OJ and I gave a great account of ourselves in interim charge too.

“We lacked bodies in our first couple of games, but we could have got points out of those, then we got a really good draw at Lancaster.

“We had limited availability that afternoon too, but that performance set a standard and hopefully that’s something the new manager can build on.”

When Havern returned to Avenue in 2020 after a season with Ashton United, he found a very different club to the one he had left.

A reduced budget and a necessary focus on Avenue’s own youth products meant Avenue were always fighting tooth and nail to stay in National League North, with Havern admitted the 2022/23 relegation campaign was probably “one step too far” for the squad.

The 35-year-old looks back most fondly on his first spell at the club, recalling: “My favourite memories at Avenue are from those first couple of years.

“We had a great group of lads that were of a similar age and of similar experience in non-league.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: This brilliant win over high-flying Chorley in October 2018 helped give Avenue genuine hope of promotion up to the National League.This brilliant win over high-flying Chorley in October 2018 helped give Avenue genuine hope of promotion up to the National League. (Image: John Rhodes.)

“We made the play-offs against the odds in 2017-18 and were top at Christmas in 2018-19.

“Everything got pulled away from us a bit after that though.

“We still made the play-offs in the end, but we had to reduce the budget and we lost a few key players in the New Year too.

“I just don’t think the club were ready to go up to the National League in truth.”

There is no bitterness about that from Havern though, and he wanted to make his affection clear for the club, despite him having now left.

He said: “I have great memories from my time at Avenue and I’ve had some lovely messages from the supporters and people that work for the club since I left.

“I certainly want to come back soon as a fan myself.

“On behalf of my family and I, I’d like to thank the club for everything they’ve done for us over the years, as well as thank Mark and Danny for everything they did for me.”