Exiles - and Eric - on their way up

THE weather’s lousy, there’s little to cheer us down Portman Road way – so it’s great to relate a heartwarming tale.

It was back in 1958 that Eric Dickerson helped form Ipswich Exiles.

That’s over 50 years ago, and they have always played in the junior section of the Kingsley Healthcare SIL.

Eric is still involved – in fact he’s been the main man since it all began – and now he can look ahead to a rise in fortunes.

Going into this weekend’s Division One matches, Exiles are in third place and with two games in hand over leaders Wickham Market and second-placed BT Trimley.

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They are unbeaten and on course to play senior football for the first time in their history next season.

“Fingers crossed,” says Eric, a footballing stalwart if ever there was one.

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“We went close in the early sixties when we lost out on goal average to Heath Row.

“But it has been a bit of a roller coaster since with a drop down to the Third Division at one time.”

Exiles gained promotion last season as runners up behind Trimley Red Devils, and have carried on the good with Eric, who has graduated from player to hold every position except chairman, adding:

“Our joint managers Sean Brown and Lee Steward are getting the best out of the lads.

“They have the players on their side, and it is a good hard working squad.

“We run youth sides at Under-12,Under-14 and Under-18 levels and are beginning to profit from that with reserve team manager Lee Clements doing a good job encouraging youngsters as they make their way through.

“We have to pleased with where we are right now, but there is a long way to go.”

Exiles play home games at Rushmere Sports Club so their facilities are suitable for playing in the Senior Division, and what a fitting reward it would be to 69-year-old Eric to cap his long footballing life with promotion to the top flight after all these years.

“Yes, it is harder to run a club of our size in the town,” he went on.

“A great many who were about when we started have fell by the wayside as there is not the community feel that you get from village and small town clubs.

“There is not the identity and not the people about willing to help

“Perhaps you needs a dogs body like me to keep it all going.”

A there-year sponsorship deal with Dan Davis from Landex Property People has given Exiles a boost and Eric is quick to praise the efforts of chairman Kevin Goldsmith.

To stay the course of 53 seasons without reaching senior level is an achievement that requires a great deal of resilience and effort.

Eric has provided this and who would detract from him the satisfaction of going up at last to the next level.

HAS your club been around as long as Ipswich exiles without hitting the hot spots? Let me know – e-mail elvin.king@eveningstar.co.uk

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