Around the Grounds No. 24: Victory Road, proud home of Leiston FC
PUBLISHED: 15:54 09 November 2018
© Stephen Waller
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. Leiston’s Victory Road is in the spotlight this week
Leiston may not be easy to get to, for the likes of Stourbridge, Tamworth and Alvechurch in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Central division, but that is part of its charm, and its success.
Tucked away in East Suffolk, not far from Saxmundham and Aldeburgh, and just a couple of miles away from the North Sea, it is certainly a trek for many teams from the newly-structured Step Three.
But then it’s the same for hosts Leiston, who this season have a 380-mile round trip to Stourbridge, a 350-round trek to Tamworth, and 300-plus journeys to and from the likes of Barwell and Coalville.
It is no mean feat that the Blues are, and have been for several years, Suffolk’s top non-league club.
Victory Road has hosted some great days, since the club clinched the Eastern Counties Premier Division title in 2010-11.
Back-to-back promotions were secured by winning the Isthmian (now Bostik) League One North, to reach the heady heights of Step Three and the Isthmian Premier.
They have come close to winning another promotion, in the intervening years, not least earlier this year when I nipped down to South London to report on Leiston’s 1-0 defeat to hosts Dulwich Hamlet in a play-off semi-final at Tooting & Mitcham’s Imperial Fields.
I thought the Suffolk visitors, managed by Glenn Driver with Tony Kinsella as his assistant, were unlucky to lose that evening – and that’s not me wearing my Suffolk hat!
Since then, a restructuring of the non-league pyramid has seen Leiston shifted sideways into the Southern League (Premier Central), hence new and distant rivalries with the likes of Tamworth and Stourbridge.
There has also been a recent change in manager, with Driver parting company with the club after his successful stay, to be replaced by former player and assistant (to Richard Wilkins) Stuart Boardley, with his assistant David Head.
But on the pitch, nothing much has changed.
Leiston are still arguably punching above their weight, at the top end of the table – they are currently fourth in the table – and it will take a titanic effort to usurp their position as the modern-day most successful non-league club in the county.
Club: Leiston FC
Ground: Victory Road (since 1921)
League: Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Central
Manager: Stuart Boardley
Chairman: Andy Crisp
I caught up with new Leiston boss, Stuart Boardley, after the dust had settled on Tuesday night’s defeat to Suffolk rivals Lowestoft in the League Cup, to air his views on his new role.
“This is a great opportunity for me, in my first full-time manager’s role,” enthused Boardley.
“When the chance came along, it was too good to turn down. Leiston is a good set-up, and more than that, there are good people here. It’s a privilege to be the manager.
“I spent 10 years of my football career here, so the job was a big draw for me, nine years as a player and the 10th in a role as player-coach/assistant/dogsbody!
“Myself and David (Head) have been around the game a long time. I’ve been around at his level now for 14 years, and you are forever learning, but I think that I have a good grasp of the level.
“Three years ago I was an assistant to Richard (Wilkins) here, so that was a great grounding for me because there isn’t much Richard doesn’t know about the game and this level, about how it works and how difficult the job is.
“Going forward, the club has not set us any goals for this season, and there’s no pressure on us to achieve anything.
“But myself and David are ambitious and we took over a team just outside the play-offs (now up to fourth with a 3-0 win over Biggleswade last weekend), and we expect to move the club forward which clearly means finishing in-or-around the play-offs,” added Boardley.
Tues, Nov 6: v Lowestoft Town (CSS League Cup, 0-1 home defeat)
I have been to Victory Road on a handful of occasions, and have always been blessed with warm hospitality, dry weather, and an entertaining match.
The drive home to Bury St Edmunds, across the breadth of Suffolk, through Clopton, Wickham Market Coddenham and alike, is always a treat in the dead of night!