Carl Marston’s Around the Grounds: Long Melford’s Stoneylands

Three of Long Melford FC's club stalwarts, from left: Richard Kemp (president), Colin Woodhouse (cha

Three of Long Melford FC's club stalwarts, from left: Richard Kemp (president), Colin Woodhouse (chairman) and Richard Powell (secretary). Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Football writer Carl Marston dons his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. Here he heads to Long Melford

The sign as you enter the clubhouse at Long Melford's Stoneylands

The sign as you enter the clubhouse at Long Melford's Stoneylands - Credit: Archant

It is impossible to visit Long Melford’s Stoneylands stadium without bumping into one of the Club’s many stalwarts.

Steeped in tradition, and tracing its roots back to 1868 – which makes it one of the oldest clubs in Suffolk – the Villagers have always been a loyal, proud, community-based outfit.

Richard Kemp, the Club’s President, has been closely associated with the club for more than 50 years, as has chairman Colin ‘Alf’ Woodhouse, while secretary Richard Powell has also has been connected with local football for half-a-century.

I met all three, when I visited Stoneylands the other night, all of them passionate about their club, despite the current relegation concerns near the foot of the Thurlow Nunn Premier.

Whitton United's Harry Wales launches a long throw during the Thurlow Nunn Premier clash against hos

Whitton United's Harry Wales launches a long throw during the Thurlow Nunn Premier clash against hosts Long Melford. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

And all are looking forward to a bright future, with the possibility of a brand-new clubhouse on the horizon.

The low-down

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Club: Long Melford

Founded: 1868

Ground: Stoneylands

Manager: Jamie Bradbury

Chairman; Colin Woodhouse

The background

The Villagers have a very proud history, dating back to their first-ever recorded match, a 5-1 win over Ipswich Rangers in January, 1868, played on Church Green.

Games must have been interesting affairs, on Church Green (better known now as Rectory Meadow), because of the considerable slope!

Their nickname, The Villagers, was coined after the much-told story of Long Melford requesting a challenge match against Ipswich Town in the late 1880s.

Ipswich refused, stating that it would be injurious to the Club’s prestige if they played “little village teams.”

Ironically, “little village” Melford went on to beat cup holders Ipswich in the semi-finals of the Suffolk Senior Cup in 1887-88, on their way to their first of eight Suffolk Senior Cup titles.

Over the last couple of decades, the Villagers won promotion to the Eastern Counties League in 2002, and clinched the Division One title in 2014-15 to secure promotion to their current Step Five level, in ECL Thurlow Nunn Premier.

They are now punching above their weight, but are hoping to end their fourth season at this level by again avoiding relegation.

The interview

Richard Kemp, the Club President, has been connected with Long Melford FC for more than 50 years, initially as a player, then later a coach, various official roles and even the club scribe – he still write the match reports, to this day.

Born in 1943, there is not much that he doesn’t know about the club.

“We had a good team in those days (1950s), with Bert Barlow joining as a player-coach during our heyday. Bert had scored two goals in the 1939 FA Cup Final, for Portsmouth (against Wolves), and went on to play for Colchester United,” recalled Kemp.

“For my sins, I used to run the under-18 team here, and my son is now 42, so that was a long time ago. We used to play the likes of Colchester United, who had the Partner brothers and Martin Grainger playing for them.

“Not many clubs had under-18 teams at the time, so I had players come from all over the place.

“I was asked to write the match reports 35 years ago! I said I won’t pull punches – if you are rubbish, I will say you are rubbish – and I have since had managers ring me up saying you can’t put that in, but that’s why I took on the job.

“When you think about it, we are probably the smallest population club in the whole Thurlow Nunn League.

“So to survive is pretty good, really, as a village club, especially when you’re up against clubs with bigger wages.

“We have two Spaniards (David Lopez and Pablo Chaves) in the team, one played at Tenerife’s Academy and the other at Granada’s, so we are a cosmopolitan team. We also have a Tanzanian lad, Hassan Ally.

“It’s difficult to survive, unless you have a big sugar daddy, with all the big money that is swilling about.

“To be fair, we do well to get crowds averaging between 80 and 100,” added Kemp.

Carl’s visit

Wed, Feb 28: v Whitton United (Thurlow Nunn Premier, 1-0 away win)

A tight game, short on skill or composure, but Whitton edged it through Josh Jeche’s 55th minute goal. The Villagers had no response, and so remain just three points clear of the drop zone.

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