Pitch problems hang over Seasiders
SOCCER: The future of Felixstowe and Walton United as a top senior club is in the balance.They go into tomorrow's Jewson League Premier Division match against Diss Town second from bottom.
By Elvin King
THE future of Felixstowe and Walton United as a top senior club is in the balance.
They go into tomorrow's Jewson League Premier Division match against Diss Town second from bottom. If they were to be relegated there is a big doubt whether their facilities would allow them back even if they finished first or second in the First Division.
"Quite bluntly, it would be a disaster if we are relegated," said manager Paul Adams today.
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The 100 yard walk from dressing rooms to pitch at the council-owned Dellwood Avenue ground goes against Jewson League rules and having changing facilities adjacent to the pitch is mandatory for new clubs applying for entry to the league.
"We are also behind the times in other areas," added Adams. "Unless the council upgrades our ground, or there is concrete news on a move to a new site, we must face the likelihood of losing our Premier Division status for good if we go down."
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Adams had a lengthy spell in charge of Felixstowe Town in the eighties and early nineties and then made a brief return to the manager's chair three years ago.
His current reign began last summer following the resignation of Steve Bloomfield. Despite Felixstowe's standing as one of the biggest ports in the world – and the financial clout this brings to the town – Adams' club is not the wealthiest around.
But he refuses to blame a lack of resources for a league season that has just four wins from 24 games.
"It would be easy to hide behind the money aspect," he said bluntly. "The bottom line is that we have under achieved.
"I signed a number of half decent young players who I expected to do better than they have. We must face up to the fact that we are in the midst of a relegation battle – and one that will have dire consequences if we lose."
One saving grace is that Swaffham, promoted last season but looking out of their depth at the top level, look set to finish rock bottom.
They have 12 points from 23 games – six less than Felixstowe, who merged with successful Metaltec SIL club Walton United 18 months ago.
"It will be extremely difficult for Swaffham to escape the drop," added Adams, a Scot who came to Suffolk from school for an apprenticeship with Ipswich Town.
"We must try to drag as many clubs as we can into the mire. Ipswich Wanderers have done well recently but they are still in danger.
"Their win at our place over Christmas was a body blow. It was a kick in the teeth but we got what we deserved. Our challenge for the rest of the season must be to finish above a mini league that includes Wanderers, Diss, Harwich and Parkeston and Newmarket Town.
"We went eight games earlier in the season where we did not lose a game and we must string together a similar run pretty soon."
Adams said that Felixstowe's geographical position did not help. "It is not an attractive scenario for prospective new players being at the wrong end of the table," he added.
"With the North Sea on one side of us, our catchment area only stretches as far as Ipswich. You can say the same about Woodbridge Town but they have a bigger budget and much better facilities"
"If we do survive we must look back on 2001/02 as a learning curve with tomorrow's match and an up-coming fixture with Mildenhall vital to our cause."
Woodbridge Town play tonight when they visit Humber Doucy Lane to play Ipswich Wanderers in a re-arranged game from Boxing Day which kicks-off at 7.45pm.
Woodbridge will have young defender Sean Bell in defence after his transfer from Wanderers earlier this month.
One of the longest serving Jewson managers, Dave Hubbick, has a number of club stalwarts in his squad including utility man Mark Bailey who recently clocked up his 350th appearance and has been on the pitch for every second of Woodbridge's last 52 games.
Stowmarket Town travel to Ely City tomorrow still stunned by their 6-0 thrashing at Maldon six days ago. Being named Premier club of the month for December no doubt jinxed them – where they had six wins and one draw – for which they will receive a Mitre football from Jewson Ltd.
Mel Aldis' side is at home to King's Lynn reserves in the second round of the Millennium Trophy, with the other ties being between March and Yarmouth, Mildenhall and Gorleston and Tiptree and Needham Market.
Needham have no game in the First Division tomorrow because of re-arranged county cup games in Suffolk and Norfolk. Hadleigh United and Whitton United are also without matches.