Around the Grounds, No. 25: ‘Soul’ of club returns to Stowmarket Town

PUBLISHED: 16:07 16 November 2018

The floodlit scene at Greens Meadow on Tuesday night, with the much-improved playing surface. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The floodlit scene at Greens Meadow on Tuesday night, with the much-improved playing surface. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Archant

Football writer Carl Marston dons his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. Here he rolls up at Stowmarket Town’s Greens Meadow

The turnstile at Greens Meadow on Tuesday night, through which a crowd of 266 entered for Stowmarket Town's cup tie against AFC Sudbury. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe turnstile at Greens Meadow on Tuesday night, through which a crowd of 266 entered for Stowmarket Town's cup tie against AFC Sudbury. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The good times are returning to Greens Meadow, the home of Stowmarket Town.

And I can vouch for that, following a rare visit to the upwardly-mobile Mid-Suffolk club on Tuesday evening, to report on ‘The Old Gold & Blacks’ in the Suffolk Premier Cup.

I drive past Greens Meadow on most days of the week, on my journey between Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich, and have watched from afar (or looking down from the A14) as the pitch has visibly improved, and the team itself has begun to click under long-term manager Rick Andrews.

Stowmarket Town (gold shirts) take on AFC Sudbury, with the main-stand in the background, during Tuesday night's Suffolk Premier Cup tie. Picture: CARL MARSTONStowmarket Town (gold shirts) take on AFC Sudbury, with the main-stand in the background, during Tuesday night's Suffolk Premier Cup tie. Picture: CARL MARSTON

- Around the Grounds No.23: Bury Town’s Ram Meadow

The pitch used to look terrible, often waterlogged, while Stowmarket Town had wallowed in Thurlow Nunn (Eastern Counties League) Division One after suffering relegation for the first time in the club’s history in 2004-05.

It’s all change now, and Stowmarket are this season challenging for promotion from the ECL Premier Division, as well as going strong in three cup competitions – and the playing surface is no longer an issue.

Stowmarket Town manager, Rick Andrews. Picture: RICHARD MARSHAMStowmarket Town manager, Rick Andrews. Picture: RICHARD MARSHAM

The low-down

Club: Stowmarket Town

Founded: 1883

Ground: Greens Meadow (since 1984)

Manager: Rick Andrews

Chairman: Neil Sharp

The interview

Rick Andrews, who is now in his sixth season as manager of Stowmarket Town, believes that the ‘soul’ of the club has returned to Greens Meadow.

“We have definitely made good progress, both on and off the pitch, over the last few years,” explained Andrews.

“The quality of the pitch has improved so much, and it promises to be even better still next year.

“Sections of the stands have been covered for people, and the changing rooms have been updated. I think the club has big potential. The kids are turning up in their replica shirts, and the town is ideally placed to hit Ipswich, Bury and Cambridge.

“There has been money invested in the club, although it’s not all about money – I used to have players telling me that they could not sign for Stowmarket, because they could not play on our pitch!

“But it’s a nicer environment now. It’s a friendly place to be, with friendly people, and I for one make a point of walking around the ground while the lads warm up before a game, talking to the supporters, because they are the lifeblood of this club.

“This is my sixth season at the club, and the squad has also got better every year. Only a few seasons ago, the only opportunity we would have got to play against a side like AFC Sudbury would have been in a pre-season friendly.

“But now we have aspirations to get where they are.

“I took over for the last 10 games of the 2012-13 season, when I was offered the role on a caretaker basis. The club had only managed eight points from 30 games, in Thurlow Nunn Division One, and I think we were bottom or second-from-bottom of the league.

“I was asked by the chairman to improve discipline – the club really lacked any sort of direction on the pitch – in fact, the very soul of the club had gone.

“But we ended up picking up 12 points from those last 10 games and I was offered the job full-time.

“We since have managed to get the soul back into the club, although it has taken a few years to get here. The crowds are coming back to Greens Meadow. We are now beating the crowds from many of the clubs in higher divisions, while only three years ago a game against Sudbury would have been unthinkable.

“It’s an exciting season ahead. We have stuttered a bit in the league of late, but we are very capable of going on another run,” added Andrews.

And don’t forget the Cup competitions, as Andrews is quick to stress: “We had never been in the last 64 of the FA Vase, but if we win at Swaffham (Saturday, December 1), which of course will be tough, then we will be in the last 32.

“We’re also still in the League Challenge Cup, where we play Godmanchester for a place in the quarter-finals,” said Andrews.

And of course Stowmarket are still going strong in the Suffolk Premier Cup.

Let the good times roll!

Carl’s visit

Tues, Nov 13: Stowmarket Town v AFC Sudbury (Suffolk Premier Cup second round, 3-1 home win)

I took pictures and wrote a report in the stands, and drank tea and ate sausage rolls in the directors’ room.

It doesn’t get better than that!

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