Footballers with a philosophy

THIS week we have a bit of a different angle to Green'Un Gold. Mike Motteram plays for Ipswich Park FC in the Norfolk and Suffolk Vets League.

Mike Bacon

THIS week we have a bit of a different angle to Green'Un Gold. Mike Motteram plays for Ipswich Park FC in the Norfolk and Suffolk Vets League. From Gippeswick Wanderers to Ipswich Park FC, this is football of true ideals

THERE were many monkeys wondering across the African savannah but only one, which stood upright, scanned the horizon and punted a rock between the two nearest trees.

Identifying the first humanoid footballer is nearly as difficult as mapping out the evolutionary roots of present day Ipswich Park FC.

Could it have been when a young Alan Smith ran out with the Old Corinthians Youth Team? When Ritchie Cooper stubbed out his woodbine and demonstrated his Cryuff turn to the bemused Hun that first Christmas? Or when John Kilpatrick watched the white horse clear the hordes from the Wembley pitch?

However, for the purpose of this abridged history, we'll settle for the playground at Chantry High School in the early 90s. A bunch of mostly public servants re-enacted their childhood dreams and afterwards repaired to the Woolpack Inn on the Tuddenham Road, Ipswich, and talked about creating a football team.

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Innocent days in the SIL

Quite who thought up the name Gippeswick Wanderers is lost in the mists of time but presumably he was a student of local history and intent on discouraging anyone who didn't have a degree.

The first game was played at Henley Community Centre. There was little memorable about the 0-0 draw apart from the arrival of the GWFC substitute on the pitch with a sponge and an empty bucket to treat an injured striker. They had a lot to learn about organised football.

In the mid to late 1990s, the team resided at the bottom of the Suffolk and Ipswich League Division 7.

Playing out of Gainsborough and

Westbourne High School, the team lost many more matches than it won but picked up numerous Fair Play awards.

Managed by Morris Helm, the team included the likes of Phil Graves, Mike Motteram, Alan Smith and Pete Richardson. Eventually, the team was taken over by a more dynamic football brain, Tony Joyce and moved to

Great Blakenham, and was renamed The Chequers. Tony was the ref for the recent

Ipswich United, 9-2 victory. Always the centre of attention, he would play every position in a single game and was known to try and head in his own crosses.

In the early days of the Chequers, Pete Mursell-Head and a very young Matt Freeman starred. However, as is the way of the world the elderly players found themselves sidelined and drifted away into retirement.

New beginnings and a promotion

It was Morris Helm who came up with the idea of a veteran's team in 2001. A friendly was arranged with a team from Needham Market and on an August evening we were narrowly beaten. On the strength of that defeat and the prospect of never donning a pair of boots in anger again a dozen blokes (a shopkeeper, a postman, a tailor, a window-fitter, a music teacher…) signed on and the team joined the fledgling Norfolkand Suffolk Vets League.

And after a shaky start the team started winning.

In 2002/3, the team graced with the talents of Donald Mlambo, Majid- Reza Kheradmandi, Tony Seston, Greg Allen, Steve Willett, Tirdad Abbas, Ron Carter, Terry Sykes, Troy Parrish, Mack Bennett and Tirdad Abbas won the League and ……never really recovered. The Premiership was a class apart. No Johnny Foreigners but the first game against a team with a FA Cup winner (Coventry V Spurs) was a bit ominous.

The wilderness years

The intervening years were tough: plummeting attendances, shocking defeats, new kits. The ranks were swelled by the Gordon Low (the Chairman) Geoff Felgate (the Secretary), Chris Baker, Pete Mursell-Head, Dave Waller and many more.

Without the stalwart keeping of Alan and Ritchie through those seasons it is impossible to envisage how the team could have survived. You can't play without a keeper and few were foolhardy enough to guard the Usual Suspects' goal. It's also worth mentioning Mahjid who took the desperate calls on Sunday mornings and ensured we at least covered positions 1 to 11.

Good players would come, play a few games and then find the prospect of D-I-Y more appealing than a 100 mile round trip to a ploughed field in Norfolk for a 0 - 6 defeat. For a couple of seasons Paul Sadler bagged a hatful of goals but often went for a whole game without sighting his own team's midfield. There's only so much pain a man can bear.

However, for the hard core of the team, it was impossible to envisage a beating so bad that wallpapering would seem like an attractive proposition.

(Mind you, for the 9 men who travelled to Kirkley FC for 0 - 13 drubbing, including a journey home via the James Paget, queuing up with a trolley at B&Q suddenly seemed quite appealing.)

Our morale sank and the team's motto could hardly have been more appropriate: “keep buggering on”.

A husband would have considered it easier to declare to the kids that he was leaving their mother for the

floozie down the street than depress everyone's mood by announcing the scoreline from Reydon.

A new team is born

Eventually, something had to change and Phil Graves took over the management of the team. His first move was to change the name to something more sensible. After a long debate Ipswich Park Avenue morphed into Ipswich Park FC. Tirdad flew in a skin-tight sky blue kit from Tehran and we began the long climb back to credibility.

Negotiations were opened with the

NSVFL in an attempt to land the “new” team in the bottom division but the League Chairman was having one of it and we were forced to rag ourselves down by our own fforts alone. The Relegation trategy was devised and it has served us well over the last few seasons.

Possibly attracted by the bright shiny kit (as opposed to the Muller Rice green and black one), John Kilpatrick (2006/7 Player of the Year), Gus Smith, Matt Winchester, Lee Melin, Nigel Abbott and Phil Rowbotham joined the team.

Instead of training over at Christchurch Park and St John's, the team moved to Whitton's astro-turf (and like the mighty Oldham Athletic of the late 80s), players rediscovered the basics like passing the ball to someone in the same coloured shirt!

Finally after many years in the doldrums, the team beat Martham

FC 2 - 1 in 2007 and a bright new chapter in the club's history began.

(Tim, our only true fan, missed the game.)

The 2007/8 season began in impressive fashion, the youth policy, long spoken of, has borne fruit and a few of the old stagers were joined by Mr Motivator, Matt Freeman, Carl Purnell and the potent attacking force of Andy Yorke and Peter Ingram. We had 4 keepers in the squad with Dave Brooks and Darren Hogwood signing on, and 37 defenders.

However, good things don't tend to last. Despite a terrific run to Christmas including a record victory by 9 goals against Ipswich United and impressive away wins at Kirkley and Lowestoft, the New Year brought nothing but defeat and dissention in the ranks.

During the winter months, the team suffered closely fought defeats at home and there were arguments about team selection and tactics.

Whilst the old guard struggled on, satisfied with the club's philosophy, if not the performances, the newer players grew more dissatisfied.

Heads went down, shoulders slumped, words of encouragement were replaced by moans and groans.

And one day, a player walked off the field during a game. As the ref commented, “he wouldn't be missed”.

The boil had to be lanced. The surgical procedure was long, drawn out and painful. In a three hour AGM at the Brewery Tap in May 2008, the team split. The young guns led by Gus Smith and Matt Freeman left to form the Ipswich Revolution taking with them Phil Rowbotham, Andy Yorke, Pete Richardson, Matt Winchester and Peter Ingram.

They've got themselves a Facebook site and depending on how things pan out some of us may get invites to be their “friends” in future.

Meanwhile, Ipswich Park has looked to recruit a new forward line for its second League campaign in Division Three (South). The manager has made a tactic adjustment with a 5 man midfield using the pace of

Neil Fuller out wide and Jeff Letters up front on his own. The Park continues to remain true to its ideals.

Club is more important than team. Competing means just that and winning is a by-product not a sole aim. It's better to encourage than to bawl out your teammates.