Debenham cross fingers for promotion
SOCCER: A team that originated in a pub on a damp Saturday afternoon in 1991 is standing on the threshold of senior football. AFC Debenham, benefiting from all that is good about rural life in Suffolk, are competing for promotion from the First Division of the Metaltec SIL.
By Elvin King
A TEAM that originated in a pub on a damp Saturday afternoon in 1991 is standing on the threshold of senior football.
AFC Debenham, benefiting from all that is good about rural life in Suffolk, are competing for promotion from the First Division of the Metaltec SIL.
In 11 seasons they have raced up from Division Seven and if Westerfield or Crane Sports slip up in their final games, Debenham could win a place in the Senior Division in 2002/03.
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"We need Westerfield to lose to Cockfield this Saturday," said Debenham manager Allen Fuller. "We beat Cockfield 1-0 last weekend and they will be tough opposition for Westerfield despite losing to Framlingham last night.
"It will then all be down to final matches of the season and if we win at Framlingham on May 4 we should be up."
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Fuller admits that there were no plans to gain promotion this term after finishing runners up to Cockfield in Division Two 12 months ago.
"The plan was to push for senior football next year, but after winning our last nine games we would be a little disappointed now if we missed out," he added.
Fuller was among a group who regularly spent their Saturday afternoons drinking in the Angel at Debenham. One day they peered out and decided to make a more active use of the spare time.
"We decided to swap pints for points," continued Fuller. "It has all snowballed from there.
"We took a season to find our feet but then rose steadily up the tables. We spent three years in Division Three, but therwise our progress has been swift."
Brian Shaw was another member of the original team and he is still playing in the first team.
What is the secret of Debenham's success? "Virtually all our players have connections with Debenham or the surrounding area," added Fuller.
"If they live in Ipswich now they were brought up in the village. So many town-based players chop and change clubs and have little allegiance.
"We don't have that problem and consequently we have a fine spirit within the club. Promotion is out of our hands but Westerfield's defeat by Kesgrave on Tuesday was a big boost for us."
Debenham have a mix of youth and experience with Kevin Snell, who captained Earl Soham Victoria to the Carlsberg Pub Cup at Wembley Stadium in 2000, a key defender although he has been injured for the last few matches.
The likes of Terry Aldis, Lee Briggs, John Farrell and Ian Keeble have Jewson League experience with Stowmarket Town while 21-year-old manager's son Darren is one of the younger team members.
Football is certainly flourishing in the villages around Suffolk with Dennington winning the SIL junior club of the month award for March. Debenham were runners-up, while Old Newton won the senior award.