The Hospital Cup – Another kick in the teeth for non-league?
So, the Hospital Cup is back.
A defunct annual pre-season friendly between Ipswich Town and Norwich City, the fixture has been relaunched as an Under-16 match.
The East Anglian rivals always used to play each other in a first-team fixture every summer, those series of fixtures ending in 1990 but now being revisited in the name of youth development and charity.
All very well, it’s great to see the popular and well-respected cup back in another form, BUT, look at it from a non-league point of view.
The location of the match? Portman Road, under the lights.
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The date of the match? Thursday, April 30 – five days after Ipswich host Nottingham Forest in the last of their scheduled home Championship fixtures, excluding the play-offs, which if Town were to make, could see Portman Road host a play-off semi-final on May 5 or 6.
Surely it’s a kick in the teeth for the non-league clubs whose hearts were broken after it was announced that once again the Premier, Senior, and Junior Suffolk County Cup finals will not take place at Portman Road this year?
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Let’s revisit the statement from Ipswich Town secretary Sally Webb, issued in February.
It said: “Our stadium may have to host play-off games at the end of the season and if we were fortunate enough to be promoted automatically we would be immediately involved in stadium and pitch renovation which would also prevent us from hosting the cup competitions.”
Non-league followers may now question why there’s enough time to fit in an Under-16’s match between Town’s end-of-season fixtures and potential play-off games?
And they have a point.
One reader who read the story on the EADT24 website commented: “Last year it was a Barry Manilow concert, and this year it is the Hospital Cup instead of local lads have a dream evening on the Portman Road pitch.”
The flexibility of the County Cup final dates do not seem to be an issue – the Premier Cup final has already changed dates once – from April 1 to April 15.
It’s an ongoing disappointment for Suffolk non-league football – a lot of people involved who have grown up supporting Ipswich Town.
And of course it is made worse by Norwich City’s support of the equivalent Norfolk County Cup finals, to be played at Carrow Road this year.