Stowmarket chief calls for more support

ON the eve of their biggest match for many years, Stowmarket Town chairman Derek Barnard has called on the people of the Suffolk town to get behind their football club.

By Elvin King

ON the eve of their biggest match for many years, Stowmarket Town chairman Derek Barnard has called on the people of the Suffolk town to get behind their football club.

He is disappointed at the apathy shown by Stowmarket residents to the success enjoyed by the club in this season's FA Cup.

The Jewson League Premier outfit travel to Northern Premier League Belper Town in the third qualifying round tomorrow – with a victory putting Stowmarket just one round away from the first round proper.

Things are really buzzing within the club and there is a genuine air of expectancy about the Belper game, but outside of Greens Meadow there is precious little interest.

And this a town that once housed 3,200 fans at the old Cricket Meadow stadium for an Amateur Cup visit by Romford.

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Less than 60 fans are booked to travel on the coach to Derbyshire tomorrow, with Barnard at a loss to see what more the club can do to increase interest.

"We have had a great cup run and the team is playing great football," said Barnard today. "Yet we played a league home match against Harwich and Parkeston on Wednesday and only 66 people paid through the turnstile.

"This was so disappointing. What more can we do? With a town the size of Stowmarket a realistic home average gate would be around 200."

Barnard has nothing but praise for manager Mel Aldis and his players. "This is the best squad we have had in the seven years I have been chairman. The balance in the side is right.

"It gives the committee great pleasure to see local young players like Darren Barnard, Carl Ratcliffe, Simon Nunn and Kevin Barker come through. They have all improved this season and played a big part in our cup success."

Victory tomorrow will see Stowmarket collect another £10,000 from the Football Association. They have already pocketed £16,000 for getting this far.

"We have never received so much money during a season," added Barnard, whose son Mark is club coach. "We plan to spend the money wisely and not throw it away."

Long-serving club president John Bultitude confirmed his faith in manager Aldis. "Mel has carried on the traditions associated with Stowmarket and his players remain so loyal.

"They do not get as financially rewarded as they would at some clubs but they give their all to Mel and to the club. Not one player has asked this week 'what is in it for me?'

"Such is the esteem Mel holds that if he was to move away from Stowmarket I feel that many of his players would go with him."

Aldis led Earl Soham Victoria to victory at Wembley in the final of the 1999/00 Carlsberg Pub Cup. He feels that this experience will hold him in good stead tomorrow.

Said Aldis: "The butterflies started on Monday, but having experienced the pressure of a cup semi-final at Anfield and a final at Wembley both myself and many of my players are better equipped to cope against Belper.

"We are all looking forward to the game and Belper are one of the three teams I wanted. I looked at the clubs left in the draw and picked out Brigg, Brockenhurst and Belper.

"It would have been nice to have been at home but we have still received a good draw. It is a match we can win."

AFC Sudbury won 3-2 at Belper in the FA Cup last season. "Sudbury are a better side than us, but if we play as well as we can then we have every chance," added Aldis.

Belper play at the same level as Wisbech who Stowmarket beat in the last round. They have just signed former Welsh international Barry Horne but are fourth from bottom in the table and lost 3-0 to Farsley Celtic last Saturday.

A Belper management team appeared at Greens Meadow on Wednesday, October 3, to watch a scheduled league game against Sudbury, but the match had been called off seven days earlier because of Sudbury's involvement in the Suffolk Premier Cup.

They had a couple of beers in the clubhouse and returned home. Key defender Darren Scoulding limped out of Wednesday's game with hamstring trouble but Aldis expects him to be fit.

"Darren has had trouble with one hamstring for a while," said Aldis. "On Wednesday he tweaked his other one, but I am sure he will be fit."

Aldis has yet to decide whether to keep Colin Yeomans up front as Stuart Jopling's strike partner or move him back to midfield to accommodate Wayne Pannell, who is now back from holiday. "Colin is the barometer of our team. If he plays well then the team plays well," he said.

Adie Whatling will be playing with a broken nose sustained in the win at Wisbech while young Ollie Langham is proving a reliable sweeper after returning to the club in the summer.

There is a reduced Jewson League campaign tomorrow with Ipswich Wanderers and Woodbridge Town both at home in the Premier Division – to Fakenham and Swaffham respectively.