'We'll do it for Aaron'

WHEN the stars of AFC Sudbury kick-off today's FA Vase final, their thoughts will be with former team mate Aaron Gardiner who died last year aged just 33.

WHEN the stars of AFC Sudbury kick-off today's FA Vase final, their thoughts will be with former team mate Aaron Gardiner who died last year aged just 33.

The players are now hoping memories of the popular midfielder will inspire them to victory in honour of the father-of-three.

In a touching tribute the club has already dedicated the game in his memory and his three daughters - Georgia, 11, eight-year-old Charleigh and Genna, six - will lead the team out as mascots.

It will be a particularly emotional day AFC midfielder Lee Norfolk, who was Mr Gardiner's best friend.

Lee, who now wears Mr Gardiner's old number eight shirt, said: “Everybody wants to win today for Aaron, he was such a good player and big character in the dressing room and he is still very much missed.

“Although I am excited about playing at White Hart Lane, I will be doing so with a heavy heart because Aaron will not be here.

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“I still think about Aaron every game I play and hopefully his memory will give us extra motivation and hopefully we can bring the vase back to Sudbury in his honour.”

Mr Gardiner collapsed and died at the Ipswich home he shared with his wife-to-be Jo Andrews, on July 21, last year. The death related to a heart problem.

He was one of the best-known characters on the East Anglian amateur football scene. After growing up in Sudbury he became an Ipswich Town youth team player and later turned out for a host of the region's non-league outfits including Diss Town, Braintree Town, Halstead Town, Cornard United and the former Sudbury Town.

He went on to make 215 appearances for AFC Sudbury and was part of the team that lost to Brigg Town in the 2003 Vase final, which he described as one of his proudest days in football.

In addition to his undoubted football ability Mr Gardiner was also known for his jovial, Jack-the-Lad character.

His father, Rob, who will be watching proudly as Mr Gardiner's three daughters lead the team out, said: “It is going to be a very emotional day for all Aaron's family and friends because Sudbury was his club and where his heart is.

“I would like to thank the club for the lovely tributes to Aaron. I just want to wish the team good luck and I know Aaron will be looking down on them.”

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