Stalwart welcomes revival

RON Abbott today welcomed the re-formation of the Suffolk Football Coaches Association.The 64-year-old was secretary of the original association for almost 20 years until it folded almost ten years ago.

By Mel Henderson

RON Abbott today welcomed the re-formation of the Suffolk Football Coaches Association.

The 64-year-old was secretary of the original association for almost 20 years until it folded almost ten years ago.

Suffolk FA football development officer Phil Woolnough is the man who has got things moving again and more than 100 coaches attended the first session at the weekend.

This was taken by Bryan Klug, the Ipswich Town Academy director, and Peter Trevivian, the FA regional development manager, and held at the Ipswich training ground at Rushmere.

A phenomenal increase of 1,200 qualified coaches in Suffolk over the last three years has led to a new need to provide practical help at all levels of coaching. This includes providing a network for sharing best practices, new ideas and to help raise standards from grassroots to the professional game.

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The original association had no official links with the FA, being formed in 1977 when amazingly there were just three qualified football coaches in Suffolk.

“They were Mick Banthorpe, Dave Little and Malcolm Crissell,” recalls Ron, a former Ipswich A team player, who was encouraged to take his coaching badge course by the formation of the Association.

“Randall Bevan, who was in charge of sport and recreation at Ipswich Council, was the man behind the idea with Roy Matthews, the first chairman, and Mick Banthorpe, the original secretary.

“Before 1977 Suffolk was a coaching desert, and we could not believe the response to the Ipswich 'Football in the Parks' scheme.

“There were literally hundreds of kids who attended every session. We soon built up our membership to over 100, but very few in the early years were qualified coaches.

“Through the help of part time FA regional officials Graham Morgan and Dave Spurdens we had a succession of big names taking sessions for our members.

“These included top FA coaches at the time Alan Wade and Charles Hughes, plus Bobby Robson, who became our president, Mike Smith, the then Wales manager, Bobby Ferguson and Mike Walker.

“Eventually numbers at our sessions reduced and we were superseded a bit as the FA brought their own coaches into the county.”

The Coaches Association became renowned for its annual dinners with 18 being held in all - with awards presented to players and teams of the year plus long-term achievers.

Former Luton Town manager and current Derby County Academy manager Terry Westley began his coaching career through the association, and local football personalities who were one-time members included Brian O'Reilly, Steve Vale, Ian Smillie, Paul Adams, Chris Locke, Don Buck, John Search and Nigel Spurling.

“I hope the people involved in the new venture have as much fun and enjoyment as we had,” added Abbott. “We had some smashing times.”

Woolnough has had links with the Norfolk Coaches Association and appreciated the need to raise the awareness of coaches in Suffolk to all that is going on.

He said: “We plan four to six events every year, mainly at Ipswich Town but we also want to explore the west and north of the county

“Quite a few of the coaches I currently work with have very fond memories of the former association.

This new arrangement has been some time coming and a lot of credit for finally getting it off the ground has to go to our football development administrator Sharon O'Donnell.

“I would also like to acknowledge Ipswich Town Academy education officer Sammy Morgan for his help and support in arranging the first event.”

On Sunday, Klug and Trevivian led a group of academy players using a variety of coaching styles and techniques. 'Pressurising Play' was the evening's main theme with a question and answer session completing the evening.

“With the numbers of qualified coaches increasing at such a rate, the time is right to put in place an infrastructure to support and further their experience,” added Woolnough.

“The association is open to all, not just qualified coaches. Those who attended on Sunday went away with information packs and application forms, buzzing with new ideas.”

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