Wembley in sight after amazing journey
THIRTEEN years ago, Needham Market were playing on a council pitch with basic facilities - now they are just two games away from playing at Wembley.Tomorrow, the Ridgeons League title chasers will be in Lancashire to face Kirkham & Wesham in the FA Vase semi-final first leg, in search of another achievement to add to their incredible rise from the Suffolk & Ipswich League.
THIRTEEN years ago, Needham Market were playing on a council pitch with basic facilities - now they are just two games away from playing at Wembley.
Tomorrow, the Ridgeons League title chasers will be in Lancashire to face Kirkham & Wesham in the FA Vase semi-final first leg, in search of another achievement to add to their incredible rise from the Suffolk & Ipswich League.
Needham's general manager Graham Emmerson has witnessed all the recent developments at the club - having spent seven years as team boss in the SIL days before returning nine years ago in his current role - and sometimes struggles to believe the progress that has been made.
He said: “When I was manager 18 years ago, we played at Portman Road in the Suffolk Senior Cup final and I thought that was the zenith for us.
“But this year, we're already going there for the Suffolk Premier Cup final, and now we're just 180 minutes from Wembley.”
It was as recently as 1996 that Needham won the Suffolk & Ipswich League Senior Division and moved from the council-owned Crowley Park to their own Bloomfield's complex.
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The new ground was named after life president Derrick Bloomfield, who has dedicated 64 years of his life to the club.
They then spent 10 years establishing themselves in the Ridgeons League First Division.
“We wanted steady, sustained development,” said Emmerson. “The priority was getting the ground and facilities and going from there. Now we've got a great committee, with people like Derrick, and that's the strength of the club.
“But we've also had great managers. Danny Laws is doing exceptionally well now, and prior to that, Mark Morsley did a great job.”
Morsley secured promotion to the Ridgeons Premier Division two years ago, and Laws is now overseeing the club's best-ever season.
Needham are aiming for promotion to the Ryman League and have two cup finals to look forward to. Getting to Wembley would be the icing on the cake.
“That would be a dream for everybody,” Emmerson said. “The community's really behind us. We've had a good response for tickets and they'll be good support for the players at Kirkham.”