Sharman is rooting for a Suffolk win

BOB Sharman, the man who managed Suffolk teams for 19 years before resigning in controversial circumstances, today wished the Under-18 well for tomorrow's FA County Youth Cup quarter-final against Durham.

By Elvin King

BOB Sharman, the man who managed Suffolk teams for 19 years before resigning in controversial circumstances, today wished the Under-18 well for tomorrow's FA County Youth Cup quarter-final against Durham.

During his managerial reign Sharman failed to win just one competition – this one.

He left over problems surrounding FA County Youth Cup games last season when Karl Tye was managing the county's Under-18 and Under-16 sides.

"I don't want to go into the reasons now, and I have no axe to grind with the county. I am certain I was right in what I did," said Sharman today. "I have telephoned Suffolk manager Danny Laws and wished him the best of luck.

"I would love to see Suffolk win the County Youth Cup, and I am sure they have a good chance. Suffolk stalwarts like the late Arthur Harvey and Fred Welham were among those who so badly wanted to see the county win a national honour."

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Suffolk twice reached the semi-finals under Sharman's management. They were beaten by Humberside at North Ferriby 1-0 with Jason Acres missing a penalty when Suffolk were down to ten men after Adam Gordon had been sent off.

"Karl Owen was our designated penalty taker that season, but he did not fancy taking the kick," recalled Sharman. The other semi-final defeat was against Merseyside when Suffolk were beaten 2-1 in Liverpool.

Conrad Henry, who dies 12 months ago, took over as Suffolk manager two years ago, with Sharman returning on a temporary basis when Henry became ill.

"We wanted Danny to become involved in the youth set-up for 2000/01," added Sharman. "He is the best man for the job as he has the best young players studying at West Suffolk College where he is head coach of the soccer school.

"His squad contains mainly boys from the Bury St Edmunds-based college, and I can understand that. I don't blame him, it makes for less hassle.

"Colwyn Rowe also has a successful full time School of Excellence at Ipswich Wanderers, but his boys do not get a look in. Some are on contracts that rule them out.

"But, as I say, I don't blame Danny and Conrad and myself were going to concentrate on boys from both colleges if we had carried on managing the county youth teams."

When Sharman was in charge Suffolk often ran four sides, but the last few years have seen the demise of adult county football – first the seniors and this campaign the intermediates.

Talented players now have no opportunity to pull on a Suffolk shirt once they reach 19 and Sharman, who ran successful youth tours to Holland for many years, says it is a great shame.

"I appreciate that the main problem was finding other counties to play, but what a pity there is no chance for the best Suffolk players to tell their grandchildren that they represented their county," said Sharman, who is now involved with the Ipswich Wanderers reserve team in the Kent Blaxill Border League.

Laws, a former county goalkeeper under Sharman, appreciated the call he received. "Bob always emphasised the pride in playing for Suffolk, and this is something I am trying to continue," said Laws, who is assisted by Neil Reader with former Whitton United chairman Mike Maskery his physio.

"It is an honour to pull on a Suffolk shirt and we shall be doing our best to get to the semi-final stage. We have a 48-seater coach travelling north and it is full. With some making their own way it will feel like a home game for the lads."

Suffolk, who have beaten Berks and Bucks, Gloucestershire and Hampshire to get this far, will be without striker Alex Harrison who is with an England party. He scored four goals in the 6-2 win over Hants.

"But we will still score goals," predicted Laws. "Joby Thorogood and James Walker are available to play up front while skipper Tom Smith has scored in every round.

"James Evans is a key man and is available after not making the final England party. He will have the job of keeping quiet the creative Durham left back. Ian Miller missed the last round but the powerful midfield man is back this weekend."

"We always create chances and the squad is full of lads who can handle the physical side of the game – as well as being away."

Laws has had Durham watched and he has contacts in the north east. "We know that they are also capable of scoring goals and they beat Essex 3-0 which is no mean feat.

"The Durham City pitch is likely to be heavy, but that is something we can also handle. We are going there to win."

Victory will give Suffolk a home game against Lancashire in the semi-finals. They met at Bury at 10.0 a.m. today and had a training session before setting off up the A1.

Regular Joffy Thorogood is suspended though his younger brother, Joby, comes into the 18-strong squad as cover. Smith, from Stowupland, has his county cap with 12 appearances for Suffolk at this and under 16 level.

Suffolk squad: Michael Harrington, Paul Cudworth, Nathan Francis, Paul Allen, Marc Lucchi, Stephen Morrison, Scott Gage, David Proctor, Ian Miller, Colin Kent, Danny Wright, Lee Sim, Lewis Pemberton, Jamie Challis, Tommy Smith, Joby Thorogood, James Evans, James Walker. All, apart from Morrison ( Ipswich Wanderers) and Challis (Newmarket Town), are from Bury Town F.C.

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