RELEASED Ipswich Town midfielder Jamie Griffiths has led calls for the Championship club to re-enter a side in the Suffolk Premier Cup.
The Free Press has learnt Ipswich paid £500 to the Suffolk Football Association for the privilege of not having to play against the cream of the county’s semi-professional sides this season, including AFC Sudbury and Hadleigh United.
But former Great Cornard Upper School pupil Griffiths, who played in the last game Ipswich contested in the competition, the 4-1 final win over Needham Market in 2010, believes they are making a big mistake.
“It is good for the community and local area for them to have the local clubs involved with Ipswich Town and get to play against them,” said Griffiths, who has been training with League Two side Gillingham. “It is good for all the clubs and definitely Ipswich for them to be involved, but that is my opinion and I did not make that decision.
“It is a good tournament and I remember playing in the final – it was a good crowd and a good game.”
Any team Ipswich visited en-route to the final in 2010, in which Pablo Counago and Lee Martin played, such as Bury Town, was guaranteed a bumper gate payday, though the club courted controversy by switching the Haverhill Rovers tie to their ground.
AFC Sudbury chairman Phillip Turner said: “Norwich play in their Norfolk one and they do not have to the first team in.
“I do not see why they cannot.”
He added it would be financially ‘massive’ for clubs such as themselves to host a tie against Ipswich Town in the competition as well as helping to revitalise it.
In Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, Ipswich are the only professional club not currently playing in their county cup competition and Hadleigh United manager Stuart Crawford believes it is the Blues who are missing out on a great scouting opportunity.
“Ipswich Town have enough footballers on their books to put out a team, even if they do not want to play the senior team.
“By doing it they are building good relations with all the local clubs and some of them have players that might catch the eye — that is the way that Ian Miller at Bury got a professional career.”
He added: “I think it is a missed opportunity with everyone concerned.”
Jade Cole, a spokeswoman for Ipswich Town, not ruling out the club re-entering next season, said they had opted out of the Combination Reserve League and the county cup this campaign to give them more control over when reserve matches are played.
She said: “The club want to challenge and progress the ‘second string team’ to help them fulfil their potential without clashing too much with first team fixtures and training and not being restricted by pre-arranged fixtures.”
She added the club was showing its support for this year’s LB Group Suffolk Premier Cup by hosting the final at Portman Road.
n AFC Sudbury’s ground will host the semi-final between Lowestoft Town and Haverhill Rovers on March 6, while Leiston will play Bury Town at Needham Market’s Bloomfields on the same night (both 7.45pm).
n For full interview with Jamie Griffiths, see page 62 of this week’s Suffolk Free Press.