Nicoll proves that Grassroots works

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AFC Sudbury boss Chris Tracey is looking to the future as the club’s youth policy starts to pay dividends.

Sixteen-year-old Luke Nicoll came on late in the victory at Ware on Saturday for his Ryman League debut, the first of a number of players from the Grassroots section who are gradually moving up through the ranks.

Nicoll came on in the last minute. “I had been trying to get him on a few minutes earlier, but the ball just wouldn’t go out of play,” said Tracey.

Nicoll, who made his first-team debut in pre-season, was previously in the Ipswich Town youth system, having signed for AFC in the summer. An attacking player, he trains regularly with the first-team squad.

“There are another couple of lads who have some up from Grassroots into the reserves,” said Tracey. “Part of my ethos for the club is that we bring young players through into the first team.

“The Grassroots is not a separate organisation. It is there to develop players, and we want to bring that good work slowly to fruition, which will see more local players in the first-team squad. We have to give them something to aspire to.”

AFC’s gradual improvement under Tracey continued at Ware, although he would have liked to have seen a few more goals. “They hadn’t lost at home for a few weeks, but we were well on top, with Dannny Gay having just one save to make.

“I said to the players it might not be the prettiest display, but we had to make sure of getting three points.”

Tracey was expecting a tough match at Waltham Forest last night — Forest being one of just two sides to beat Needham Market this season — before turning his attention to two home games, Waltham Abbey (3pm) on Saturday and Potters Bar Town on Tuesday (7.45pm).

“They will be tough. After last weekend Waltham Abbey were the second highest scorers in the division, and Potters Bar have picked up after a slow start. Hopefully there will be plenty of goals, but not going into our net.”

But Tracey says he does not fear either team. “Other than Enfield, who are a class apart and gave us the runaround, I feel we are capable of beating any of the other teams in the division.”

But he acknowledges there is more pressure at the MEL Group Stadium than on the road. “The fans are used to success at home. They have had a few lean seasons, but expectations rise when you put a little run together.”

l Needham Market will host AFC Sudbury in a Suffolk derby clash in the last 16 of the Alan Boon Cup, the Ryman League Cup competition. The match will be played week beginning December 5.

l AFC Sudbury Reserves are the winners of the Chell Trophy West Suffolk group and join Gorleston, Heybridge Swifts and Felixstowe & Walton United in the semi-final draw, which will be made on Sunday.

l AFC Gold winners week 29: £100 — 345 J Cannings, Clover Ct, Needham Market; £10 — 316 Mrs C Jeffrey, Chelsworth Ave, Gt Cornard; £10 — 278 M Cansell, Sandy Lane, Sudbury.