Taverners celebrate 35 seasons

A CLUB that typifies all that is good about Sunday football is celebrating its 35th consecutive season.Taverners run teams in the First and Third Divisions of the Selectic Technical Services Sunday Morning League – and last campaign both the first team and reserves won their divisional Fairplay awards.

By Elvin King

A CLUB that typifies all that is good about Sunday football is celebrating its 35th consecutive season.

Taverners run teams in the First and Third Divisions of the Selectic Technical Services Sunday Morning League – and last campaign both the first team and reserves won their divisional Fairplay awards.

And in 2000/01 Taverners were runners-up in the Suffolk FA Fairplay award scheme.

On a footballing front, the first team won the Sunday Morning League Second Division title in 1994, but they have tasted precious little other success.

More important than silverware to club stalwarts is the reputation the club has built up since it was established in 1967.

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A Corinthian approach has certainly helped to breed loyalty with 22 players having turned out more than 200 times.

Seven have played over 300 games and two – Tim Howard and Trevor Hedges – over 400. But the star in the pack is club chairman Pat Elvin who is just one game off the 700 mark.

In that time he has scored 172 goals, 158 for the first team and 14 for the reserves. Leading the goal chart is Gary Cunningham with 187, and in total seven players have exceeded the three figures.

But everything was not squeaky clean when Taverners began life in the mid-sixties. They broke a rule that banned football in Ipswich parks on Sunday mornings.

"Park keepers turned a blind eye," says first team manager and founder member Bob Bullamore.

The club was formed out of sixth form pupils from Northgate Grammar School and after a couple of seasons playing irregular matches a decision was made to play a full season of friendlies in 1966/67.

Local by-laws barred matches in Ipswich parks in the Sundays mornings, hence the first established leagues were in the afternoons, the Sunday Combination and the Gippeswyk Sunday League.

Taverners joined the Gippeswyk League in 1966/67 using a pitch at Woolverstone. The first game was a 3-2 defeat at Capel St Mary against Footmans.

Victories did not come with any great regularity and in 1969/70 Taverners were relegated to a newly-formed Third Division. One record was created when Brian Suttle became the only player to score six times for the club – against Inter Celtic in an 11-2 victory at Bourne Park.

With 16-year-old Russell Langham scoring 11 goals, Taverners finished third in 69/70 to regain their Second Division place.

Season 71/72 saw a struggle to field a side and a number of big defeats. But it did see the introduction of Elvin.

An influx of players followed and fortunes improved with a move to the growing Ipswich Sunday Morning League (Division Nine) in 72/73.

Steady progress was made, and Division Five reached 1977, when the second team was formed.

The first team spent six seasons in Division Two from 1982 and they have hovered around that mark ever since. Current Hadleigh United manager Louis Newman scored six times for the reserves against Railway Tavern in 1979/80.

Elvin's run of 175 consecutive appearances came to an end through injury in 1984/85, while in 86/87 and 87/88 Taverners were the only Suffolk entrants in the FA Sunday Cup.

The First Division was reached in the early nineties and Elvin was at it again – completing the full set by playing in all 11 divisions of the Sunday Morning League for one club.

While the clubs remains in the capable hands of Bullamore and secretary Frank Fleming there is no reason why it should not continue to be a prime example for others to follow.

On a personal note I am reminded by Bob Bullamore that in a 1967/68 game against Ipswich Grasshoppers at Whitton Maypole I managed to score four times before the interval.

Bob has a far better memory than I do, but I am sure he must be right. Apparently the game ended 5-1 to Grasshoppers.

PAT Elvin has no regrets about remaining loyal to Taverners. The 47-year-old is just one game away from his 700th match for the club – yet he can boast just one significant medal.

"It is a lovely friendly club, and I have not had the heart to leave," he explained. "It have been ribbed several times and I have lost count of the number of people who have asked me why I have stayed?

"But it is not all about winning and I have never felt like moving elsewhere. We have not enjoyed too much success but the spirit is very good and I have no regrets."

A roofer by trade – which helps keep him fit enough to continue to play – Elvin played on Saturdays for Waterside Works. But he has been an Ipswich Town season ticket holder for some while now.

The rising rate of bad behaviour in Sunday football is a worry to all and Elvin admits that it is getting more of a problem.

"We like to thank that we do things the right way at Taverners," he said. "I blame TV as Sunday footballers see professionals getting away with all sorts of things.

"And I feel sorry for referees. They used to have a laugh with us, but now they are too frightened in case they appear to be siding with one team or the other."

Elvin has played just once this season because of unavailability, but he is due to make his 700th appearance soon – and then carry on to increase his remarkable record.

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