Saints marching towards senior status
SAINTS alive - the remarkable rise of St Johns could see them playing senior football just seven years after joining the SIL.The Ipswich-based club have gained promotion every season they have been in the Metaltec SIL - and they are currently top of the First Division with three games to play.
By Elvin King
SAINTS alive - the remarkable rise of St Johns could see them playing senior football just seven years after joining the SIL.
The Ipswich-based club have gained promotion every season they have been in the Metaltec SIL - and they are currently top of the First Division with three games to play.
Caribbeans are the only other side to achieve a similar meteoritic rise having joined Division Eight in 1971 and playing in the Senior Division in 1978.
There was no Eighth Division when St Johns moved out of youth football as Golden Hind Rangers in 2000, and they have advanced swiftly up the divisions from Division Seven.
After switching to play home matches at Walton Recreation ground the club changed their name to Walton Rangers before linking up with the St Johns two years ago.
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St Johns are one of the most established youth set-ups in the county, and the link has benefited both parties with youngsters now given the opportunity to progress into adult football once their youth days are over.
Remarkably, Paul Buckingham has been manager since Golden Hind were playing as Under-14's, and Chris Wood has remained coach all the way through a remarkable ride.
Paul's son Michael is a current first teamer who began in the youth side and he has an array of medals that are the envy of many.
But will he add the First Division championship gong this term?
St Johns secretary Rick Minns said: “It looks as though Old Newton will be going up, with three or four others vying for the other promotion place.
“Teams have got to play each other and I am sure it will go down to the wire.”
St Johns play Mendlesham on Saturday, and their remaining two matches are against Suffolk Junior Cup finalists Stonham Aspal and Willis.
They have lost three players this season to senior clubs with Luke Reid (Grundisburgh), Sam Richardson (Haughley) and Arbon Kascrati (Crane Sports) moving on.
But this has not stopped St Johns having another successful campaign, and if results go their way the next big obstacle they face will be to get their Gainsborough Sports Centre ground passed for senior football.
“It is mainly a case of roping the pitch off and installing dug-outs,” said Minns. “Once we have a costing we will be going to the Suffolk FA to find out about grants to pay for the work.”
Last Saturday St Johns beat St Edmunds 5-1, and a similar performance against third-from-bottom Mendlesham this weekend will put them in good heart for their tough tests against Stonham and Willis.
Three teams could be promoted from the First Division if either Haughley United or Brantham's applications to move up to the Ridgeons League proves successful.