Relationship that was made to last

When AFC Sudbury take to the field for the FA Vase final on Saturday, for Les Bolitho White Hart Lane could really be the theatre of dreams.

Les, president of AFC Sudbury, was born in Tottenham in 1920, and has been a Spurs supporter from the age of five. He celebrated his 85th birthday on April 20.

He moved to Cavendish in 1970, where he was involved with the village football club before moving to Sudbury Wanderers in the 1980s.

Les and wife Ann spent five years in Lincolnshire, but moved back to Cavendish in 1994, and he then became president of Wanderers.

Following the merger of Sudbury Town and Wanderers in 1999, Les became president of AFC Sudbury. After two final defeats in the last two seasons, he is hoping that this will at last be AFC's year.

Les and Ann talked to Free Press sports editor Ken Watkins about AFC's big day, their life and times, and local football.

Les Bolitho's long-lasting relationship with AFC Sudbury began when he was president of Cavendish in the 1980s.

Brundon Lane was then the home of Sudbury Wanderers, and the two clubs worked well together.

"While I was at Cavendish we built up a good relationship with Wanderers. We were using some of their players, and some of our players went to play for them.

"Our son Mark, who had been on Cambrige United's books when Ron Atkinson was manager, was unfortunate with injuries. He went to play for Wanderers.

"I went to watch him and gradually got involved during the 1983-4 season while I was still chairman of Cavendish."

Wanderers, he said, were a well organised club "with the massive advantage of having their own ground in Brundon Lane, and I was soon put to work by their committee, and encouraged by Brian Tatum, who was at the heart of the club, as he still is at AFC.

"Over the next few years I became vice-chairman and then chairman. The main theme of my stewardship was C.A.D.S. – Communication, Accountability, Delegation, Standards. It was popular with most, but not all, although I think it did bring a degree of profesionalism to the club.

"It was obvious to me that what the club needed to take it further than I could was a younger, successful businessman to take charge. My predecessor Eric Wilson always said a club needed to bring in young people.

"Nick Smith used to train with us. He was always last round the pitch. I thought he was the right man, so I worked on him. He said he was trying to build his business up and he hadn't got time.

"I told him we were moving, and at the agm that year, 1989, he finally said he was ready to take over. I never dreamed they would do as well as they have done.

"The amount of time and money that MEL has put into that club is amazing. I just hope it continues. Getting him as chairman was the best thing I ever did for the club. With Nick, of course, we got Gary – what a combination.

"When we came back to Suffolk in 1994 the club did me the honour of asking me to become president."

After Sudbury Town hit their problems, the two clubs came together in 1999 to form AFC. "I feel the merger was the best thing that could have happened for football in the town of Sudbury.

"Wanderers were coming on, with Keith Martin as manager, and we started to get some success. Town had their troubles.

"They had had some great days under Malcolm McKenzie, and then Martin Head and Don James.

"The merger brought the best of both clubs together, and made for a stronger club for the town. It also brought together both sets of supporters, and the support we have now is magnificent."

Les can understand some Town supporters being disappointed by the merger. "Both clubs lost their identities in the merger, but the history of both clubs is part of AFC's history now.

"There are plans for major development, and the future for the club is bright.

"As far as the debate on going up is concerned, I don't think it makes sense at this time. The club would double its expenditure, with little or no increase in revenue.

"We would also leave the Vase to go into the Trophy competition. And who is to say we would see any better football?"