Lee’s extra incentive to reach Wembley final

LEISTON player-coach Lee Norfolk has more incentive than most of his team mates to reach Wembley, even though he may not feature in the final.

Former Ipswich Town midfielder Norfolk played in three consecutive FA Vase finals for AFC Sudbury, but ended on the losing side each time – and none of them was at Wembley!

He came on as a substitute as Sudbury lost 2-1 to Brigg Town at Upton Park in 2003, started in the 2-0 defeat to Winchester City at St Andrew’s the following year and again came off the bench in the 3-2 loss to Didcot at White Hart Lane 12 months later.

Norfolk, now aged 35, is usually on the bench for Leiston, coming on to use his experience to good effect in the closing stages of matches when required, and is likely to be among the substitutes for tomorrow’s quarter-final tie at Coalville Town.

He recalled: “Each one was worse than the previous one. We just wanted to win it so that losing the previous one was not so bad. The third one was probably our best chance to win it, but we still lost although we didn’t feel we were beaten by a better side.

“But I have some great memories – all three finals were fantastic days out and to have brought the trophy home would have been the icing on the cake.

“However, the biggest bugbear was the fact that in each of the three years we got to the final they were redeveloping Wembley – that’s not to take anything away from the good grounds we played at, but it is every professional or non-league player’s dream to play at Wembley.

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“There are four of us at Leiston – David Head, Neil Calver, Shane Wardley and myself – who were involved in FA Vase finals with Sudbury, and it would be nice to lay the ghost to rest and win it this year.”

Norfolk spent six years at Portman Road – three-and-a-half of them as a professional after joining as an apprentice – after arriving in this country from New Zealand, which is currently recovering from the recent earthquake in Christchurch.

He said: “My parents still live over there and although they are at the other end of the country they know people in Christchurch, a few of whom had lucky escapes.

“It makes you think there are more important things in life than sport – people who were going about their day-to-day business were there one minute and not the next.

“I know the whole country will be pulling together as there is a great spirit in New Zealand, but you feel quite helpless being this far away.”

Norfolk approached Leiston chairman Andy Crisp and in a joint tribute, also held in memory of a long-serving supporter, a minute’s silence was observed before Tuesday’s Ridgeons League Premier Division match at home to FC Clacton.

“It has been quite distressing watching on the news and seeing what has been going on back home, so it was a fantastic gesture by the club,” added Norfolk, who played the final 20 minutes in Leiston’s 3-0 victory.

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