Football: Who’s laughing now?

CAJOLING: Jason Maher encourages his players during Saturday's 2-0 win.
CAJOLING: Jason Maher encourages his players during Saturday's 2-0 win.

WHEN a 29-year-old manager took over the helm at Stoneylands declaring he wanted to lift silverware with Long Melford, he was laughed at.

But now Jason Maher could be having the last laugh by becoming one of the youngsestnon-playing managers to ever lift a trophy on the pitch at Ipswich Town Football Club.

After a 2-0 semi-final victory over Felixstowe United tears of joy were visible on Maher’s face, but he knows there is still one last massive hurdle to overcome if he is to achieve his dream – defeating Whitton United and lifting the Suffolk Senior Cup.

“I remember when I took the job last year when Geoff left, I was saying to a lot of people at the time I would love to come here and win something,” said Maher, now 30. “And I remember at the time people laughed at me and said ‘are you crazy? This is Long Melford’.

“Well, we got to a semi-final last year (First Division Knockout Cup against Thetford) and just came up short and this year we have done really well and we go into that final now as underdogs.

“But I tell you this now; if on the day they don’t give us the credit and respect we deserve we can win because we have got a good side, we really have, and we can win the final.”

He added: “Going to Portman Road will be the stuff dreams are made of for our players.

“A lot of boys in our dressing room are Ipswich Town fans, the local club, and I said in the dressing room, ‘sometimes dreams can become a reality for players’ and they have done it.”

As well as speaking of his delight for injury-plagued goalscorer Dan Cann, Maher reserved special praise for strike partner Martin Wescott, who he revealed spent the night before throwing up but was still desperate to play 90 minutes.

He also told how captain Ashley Skeggs had gambled on playing through an injury and player-coach Danny Shipton took part just days after having an operation on a stomach condition, all demonstrating the character and hunger within his side.

But he said others had not spoken well of his charges in the build-up, which had only served to make his job to motivate his players easier.

“Everyone has written us off before we got there.

“Nobody thought we would beat Sudbury Athletic, we beat them. Nobody thought we would beat Beccles, we went there with a really weakened squad because of injuries and we came through and Achilles at home on a bad day.

“For us to win 2-0 was just a brilliant day. To be honest, yes they had a couple of shots and hit the bar late on but I really thought for 80 minutes of the game we were good value for our win.”

The final date will be announced in the Free Press when it has been set by Suffolk FA.