Cup heroes to recall finest hour
NEXT year marks the tenth anniversary of Earl Soham Victoria's success in the Carlsberg Pub Cup.It was a fairytale experience for a talented band of Suffolk-based footballers who beat Eastleigh 2-1 in the final at Wembley Stadium.
NEXT year marks the tenth anniversary of Earl Soham Victoria's success in the Carlsberg Pub Cup.
It was a fairytale experience for a talented band of Suffolk-based footballers who beat Eastleigh 2-1 in the final at Wembley Stadium.
Managed by current Debenham Leisure Centre boss Mel Aldis, they came through the early rounds to earn a semi-final place at Anfield, Liverpool.
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Named after a village pub in the heart of the county, Victoria were one of the last teams to play at the old Wembley before it was bulldozed to the ground.
Ipswich Town followed two weeks after the triumph of the amateur Suffolk side, and they also enjoyed their experience with a 4-2 victory over Barnsley in the play-off final that took them to the Premiership under the management of George Burley.
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Kevin Snell was captain of the Victoria side and he said: “It was a fantastic time for us all, and we are planning a reunion next spring.
“The players are all still around and I don't think it will be a problem to get the squad back together again.
“Over 500 teams entered the Pub Cup that season, and it was an exceptional and unforgettable experience for us all - that we plan to re-live next year.”
It was while Victoria were winning at Anfield that Claude Chapman led the first 'Tractor Boys' chant from the Kop end that eventually transcended to Portman Road and let to Ipswich Town becoming universally known as the Tractor Boys during the Burley era.Aldis keenly recalls what he calls a 'fantastic adventure' and he said: “It is hard to believe it is a decade ago.
“It was virtually a hand-picked team of friends with 16 squad members. I had the chance to bring in other players as we progressed, but I kept to my original group.
“And I'm glad that I did as it would not have been the same if I had tried to strengthen my squad.”
Aldis has pictures taken at Anfield and Wembley on his office wall with one of his current Debenham star players - Shaun French - a mascot in those days.
“We took around 400 supporters to Anfield when we beat Ferrybridge 2-1 and 2,000 to Wembley,” added Aldis, who played in the opening round.
“We beat west Suffolk club Tuddenham at Stowmarket Town's ground one cold Thursday evening but I needed to be replaced by one of my younger brothers before we got through to the next round.
“I didn't have any grey hairs then!”
Winning at Wembley earned Earl Soham Victoria a place in a pub European tournament in Holland, and they were beaten 2-1 by a side from Sweden in the final.
Aldis has led Debenham from junior football to a place in the Premier Division of the Ridgeons League, which he naturally sees as his greatest managerial achievement.
But he is looking forward to re-living the 'amazing' Earl Soham experience next spring.