LOCAL REACTION: Clubs miss out on Suffolk FA finals at Ipswich Town, due to potential play-off campaign and Barry Manilow!
It's been described as the pinnacle for our local footballers, the chance to play an end-of-season Suffolk FA cup final at Portman Road.
It’s the one they all want to be involved in and this season, the likes of Ipswich Wanderers, Claydon and AFC Sudbury Ladies were getting ready to tread the hallowed turf.
However, with Ipswich Town being involved in a tantalising end-of-season battle to reach the Championship play-offs and veteran crooner Barry Manilow due to appear at Portman Road on May 16, Ipswich Town have had to pull out of hosting the Suffolk FA Premier, Senior and Junior Cup finals, as well as the Ladies’ cup final this year.
Final dates were never confirmed for Portman Road and Suffolk FA chief executive Laura Smith explained the nature of the Championship season means they never can be.
So instead of Portman Road, the region’s showpiece games will now be held at AFC Sudbury, Hadleigh United and Bury Town, with a location yet to be confirmed for the Junior Cup.
Ipswich Wanderers chairman, Terry Fenwick, whose team were set to defend their Suffolk Senior Cup crown at the venue where they were triumphant last season, said: “It’s very, very disappointing.
“It’s been a hard season and along with pushing for promotion (from Thurlow Nunn Division One), this is one of the pinnacles of our season.
“I’m very disappointed for the players, their families, the sponsors, it’s a great build-up and a great day out.
“We were there last season and it was a fantastic occasion, not just because we won, but we have players now who weren’t involved then.
“It’s not a good advert for local football. The new date clashes with another final and with the game being on a Bank Holiday, there will be families that will have made other plans.”
Claydon chairman Tony Adams’ team have reached the Suffolk Junior Cup against Oulton Broad.
“The players are totally gutted and the club is extremely disappointed,” he said.
“This is our 60th year in the league and the chances of a small club like ours making Portman Road are very low. It’s not Suffolk FA’s fault but we are a junior club and a lot of our junior supporters were looking forward to attending the day.”
Meanwhile, Bury Town and Felixstowe & Walton will now battle it out for the Suffolk Premier Cup at AFC Sudbury.
Bury chairman Russell Ward said: “Ipswich Town aside, the best facilities are at Sudbury so that was the best alternative from our point-of-view.
“We (Bury) will also be staging the Ladies’ Cup final between AFC Sudbury Ladies and Brandon and we want to make sure that they have the best day possible.”
Felixstowe chairman, Andy Wilding, added: “We respect Suffolk FA’s decision and it is out of our hands.
On possibly rescheduling the finals, Wilding said: “By the time you reach the middle of May, everyone has had enough.”
AFC Sudbury Ladies boss Clive Golding said: “We would have liked to have played at Portman Road but at the end of the day we are pleased to be in the final.
“We will be playing at Bury Town now who play at a high standard and I am sure they will put on a reasonable ground for us to play on.
“Weare happy to have got there, and we beat Ipswich Town for the first time who play two leagues above us.
As for local football fan Tim Richardson, he said: “What amazing own goals by Ipswich Town and Suffolk FA, not to have the four County Cup Finals at Portman Road.
“We were treated last season to a nail-biting finale of the Senior Cup between Ipswich Wanderers and Whitton Utd in front of 1000-plus spectators and the two teams were to fight it out again this season but now find they will be playing at Hadleigh United. Do you think there will be the same amount of spectators? I don’t think so.
“I have already spoken with many local football fans, who always attend these showpiece finals at Portman Road, but will not travel out to Hadleigh or Sudbury or anywhere else for that matter
The teams have played hard to get to these finals with the expectation of appearing at Portman Road, this being many of the local players “Wembley”. In particular you have to feel sorry for the players of Claydon, Oulton Broad and Sudbury and Brandon Ladies who may well never get the chance again.
To say that for many good reasons they are unable to stage the matches to my mind is absolute nonsense, as I believe this Saturday they are staging the Under-18s cup final Suffolk v Lancashire, when Ipswich are away.”
He added: “Barry Manilow is not on until May 16, surely Town don’t need nine days to set up for the concert.
“We often hear the term “grassroots football”, this is what these matches are about. Do Ipswich Town and Suffolk FA support grass roots? I don’t think so.
“Come on Suffolk FA and ITFC, get your act together and support local teams. Carrow Road doesn’t seem to have any problems in staging county finals there.”