Crane Sports: ‘We’re alive and kicking’ after most dramatic of weeks

Crane Sports the current SIL Champions. Almost folded last week. Photo: PAUL VOLLER

Crane Sports the current SIL Champions. Almost folded last week. Photo: PAUL VOLLER - Credit: Archant

Crane Sports are ‘alive and kicking’ after one of the most dramatic weeks in the club’s history.

Joint boss, Iain Radnor. Photo: GREGG BROWN

Joint boss, Iain Radnor. Photo: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Just seven days ago the SIL Senior Division champions announced they were withdrawing from the league and folding after being hit hard with the uncertainty of the pandemic and running costs of the club.

The news shocked the Suffolk non-league world.

However, just 24 hours later there was a change of heart. And Cranes were back in business.

For vice-chairman Shaun Watson and many at the club, it has been a rollercoaster week.

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“Yes, we’re alive and kicking thank goodness,” he said.

“We have a great deal of history at this club and it upset a lot of us to think all that could have been thrown away. But we felt at the time we had no choice.”

Shaun Watson, Cranes vice-chairman. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

Shaun Watson, Cranes vice-chairman. Photo: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

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Cranes play out of Greshams in Ipswich and have done so for 10 years, after a move from Whitton’s King George V ground in the town.

“I’ve been at the club 23 years and we have never had our own home since we moved out of Cranes,” Watson continued.

“And of course we have to pay pitch fees and other expenses. Fundraising for us is crucial and we have to do certain fundraising at certain times of the year. But since Covid and lockdown in March, that all stopped.

“We exhausted every avenue to try and get finance, but understandably people couldn’t commit to giving us money.”


However, just 24 hours after the news of their folding, Cranes were thrown a lifeline after Gresham owner Mark Calver found out about the news, contacted the club and waived any fees they owed. It’s been the saving grace.

Crane Sports celebrate winning the 2014/15 Touchline SIL Senior Division Championship

Crane Sports celebrate winning the 2014/15 Touchline SIL Senior Division Championship - Credit: Archant

“I only found out they were pulling out of the league when I saw it on social media,” Mr Calver said.

“I didn’t want to see that. They have been a loyal club at Greshams for many years and used our club for fundraising and after matches. We didn’t want to lose them. So, I had a conversation with Mary, their secretary, and we have waived the fees they owed, and hopefully now they can finish this season and kick on in the spring.”

It was a gesture Cranes were grateful for. “We are very thankful and now have a chance to regroup and that is vital,” Watson added.

“If it wasn’t for our chairman Lyndon Barnett and secretary Mary Barnett, I don’t think we would still be going. They are the heartbeat of the club.”

And it was the response of fellow SIL clubs to the news of their impending closure that also heartened Watson and all at Cranes.

“After we announced we were folding, the response from ex-players, even our rivals on the pitch, was tremendous. They have all been very supportive, as have the SIL itself,” he said.

“It shows what it means to have Cranes still here.”

The current management team of Iain Radnor, Damian Brown and Paul Tietjen are all on board when the season resumes this Saturday - Cranes travel to Bildeston.

And the club has made a few signings - “We haven’t got a very big squad and lost a few key players last season,” Watson added.

So, what are Shaun’s hopes for the future of the club.

“As I said, we have lost a few key players,” he continued. “The last few seasons have been a bit of a golden era. Perhaps now we have to look to rebuild, bring in more youngsters.

“It’s all changing a bit in the SIL senior division in general, with the likes of Claydon, Old Newton, Halesworth, Benhall, Trimley and a few others all really competitive.

“The last six or seven years, it has mainly been us, Achilles and Henley for the title. But that’s all changed now.

“We’re just happy we are still here.”

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