Sudbury boss stays on after considering future

NICKY Smith will be in charge of AFC Sudbury for their visit of Blue Square Bet South side Hampton & Richmond Borough in the first round of the FA Trophy today.

The 41-year-old was found guilty of ‘bringing the game into disrepute’ at a Football Association hearing at Wembley on Thursday following remarks allegedly said to young Suffolk referee Carl Fitch following his side’s 5-3 defeat to Bury Town in the Suffolk Premier Cup back in October.

The charge – which has brought Smith a �50 fine and a two-game touchline ban – left him so disillusioned that he immediately announced that he was considering his future in the game.

He left assistant Chris Tracey to take training on Thursday evening while he talked things over with friends and family before coming to the decision yesterday that, despite his deep disappointment in the way he has been treated, he will continue in his role.

“I seriously considered my future in the game because it’s left me really disillusioned,” said Smith, a former Colchester United midfielder who now works in the police force.

“But after much thought I’ve decided that I don’t want to let this club or the players down because I think we can be successful this season.

“If the offence was being sarcastic or having a bit of banter then I am guilty – I’ve had that sort of relationship with referees throughout my football career – but I would never say anything malicious or personal.”

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Smith had eye-witnesses to the alleged exchange of words to back his case at the FA’s headquarters and even had a supporting statement from opposition manager Richard Wilkins. A judging panel, including ex-Ipswich and Arsenal player Brian Talbot, decided though that Smith was guilty on ‘the balance of probability’.

“That’s the part that has left me flabbergasted the most,” said Smith. “How can they come to a decision on that basis? Either they have enough evidence to find you guilty or they don’t. In a court of law a guilty verdict can only be given if the case is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

“This has left a really sour taste in my mouth. I’m now not going to speak to referees at all which is a shame because, as I said, I’ve always had a good relationship with them.

“If I’d said something offensive in the heat of the moment I would be the first to hold my hands up and apologise, but I simply did not say what was alleged.”

All of the above has provided an unwelcome distraction in the build-up to what is a big game for AFC Sudbury today. The Suffolk side – who are currently eighth in the Ryman League Division One North (Step Four) with games in hand on many above them – have won through four rounds, including victory at Cornish side Truro, to set up a tie with Hampton & Richmond (Step Two).

Elsewhere, north Suffolk side Lowestoft Town – in the first round of the competition for the first time in the club’s history – host an Uxbridge side who play a step below them in the non-league pyramid (Zamaretto League Division One Central).

Essex club Braintree Town (Blue Square South, Step Two) have a trip to the well-supported Blue Square Premier side AFC Wimbledon (Step One).

Meanwhile, Bury Town – out of the FA Trophy – entertain Billericay in a Ryman League Premier Division fixture this afternoon. The Blues are still without Chris Henderson and Kieran Leabon through injury.

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