JUST 19 months ago they were gracing the hallowed turf of Ipswich Town’s Portman Road in a cup final, as well as toasting promotion.
But this week heralds a dark day for local football with Sudbury Athletic having been consigned to the history books — at least for now.
The Delphi Sports Ground-based side have folded, just weeks after their most successful manager, Jules Mumford, departed to be the number two at Ridgeons League side Long Melford.
The timing of his exit has been blamed by club officials on their demise, but he has replied by claiming the club ‘could have avoided folding’.
Sudbury Athletic, known as CAV and Lucas before 1987, had been running since the 1940s and hope to reform next season.
Club secretary of the former Essex and Suffolk Border League Premier Division outfit (seventh last season), Pat Rocket, has been involved for 41 years, and hopes this is not the end of the road.
“I can understand why the manager left but it is still a disappointment he left when he did,” he said.
“Unfortunately, these days at clubs at our level (one below Ridgeons First Division) have half the players playing because of the manager and they do not play for the club.”
But he added: “I am fairly confident we can carry on next year with new blood.”
Rocket and the small committee made the decision after the side could not even muster 11 players for a home game with Harwich and Parkeston last week, resulting in a £50 fine from the league.
The prospect of further fines, after having to pull out their reserve team from their league after James Heskett moved up to take over from Mumford.
President Jack Owen, who has been with the club since moving to the town in 1963, said: “I feel heart-broken for Pat.
“He has put his heart and soul into Sudbury Athletic and he has been a true servant.
“I am disappointed the manager walked away when the season was already six weeks old and as a consequence a number of players left and we were forced to fold.
“But I do not think this is the end of Sudbury Athletic, it was simply the financial pressure became too great.”
Mumford, who gave three-and-a-bit seasons to getting Athletic promoted and to that Suffolk Junior Cup final defeat to Bacton United 89, said: “When is a good time to leave? Unfortunately, when you get an opportunity sometimes you have to take it.
“There are a few other reasons why I left but I do not want to get into that.”
He added: “It is definitely a sad story for Athletic to fold but at the end of the day I think it could have been avoided.”
A former player, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Free Press the squad did not blame Mumford leaving and were very thankful to him.