PLAY-OFF chasing AFC look set to rely on teenage goalkeeper Fred Howe until the end of the season, after a dispute with former Tottenham Hotspur stopper Nicky Eyre.
Manager Nicky Smith insists he will not back down to get Eyre back in the side at the business end of the season, declaring: “No-one is bigger than AFC Sudbury”.
The Sudbury keeper, who was playing Blue Square Bet South football with Bishop’s Stortford earlier this season, was surprised to look in his bank account and find out he had not been paid last week.
When he rang the club for an explanation, he said no-one could tell him why, so it was time to take a stand.
But Smith told the Suffolk Free Press the non-payment was part of a distributed club fine system, agreed with the players, for not being available for matches.
In Eyre’s case, this related to the Chesthunt home game he had made prior agreements with the club to miss to go abroad for a wedding.
But Eyre, who says he had picked up a thigh injury in the preceding game, making him unavailable anyway. said his stance of not playing until he is paid the money has probably resulted from a breakdown in communication.
He said: “I have nothing but good things to say about the club, but the fact is I did not get paid or told why.
“I found that it brought too many bad memories from other places and set alarm bells ringing.”
He added: “It is not Sudbury’s fault, but I had to make a stand in my career some time and this was the time unfortunately.
“I could live for a year off the earnings I have not received from football clubs. I do not find it acceptable.”
Nicky Smith bemoaned the fact the situation had come to light only after last Thursday’s transfer deadline day and said: “At the moment, Nicky Eyre will not be playing for the club. At the end of the day, if you miss a game you get fined.
“Fred will remain in goal. He has done all right and probably saved us a point on Saturday, keeping out a point-blank header.”
On the back of letting a lead slip in the 2-2 home draw with Chesthunt on March 26, Sudbury again failed to register a win when ahead at Potters Bar Town on Saturday, the game ending 2-2.
But Smith, whose side were dumped out of the play-off places by Wingate & Finchley on Tuesday night, was not too disappointed with the return, which has seen AFC win only two of their last six.
“I went and watched Potters Bar in the week before against Needham and they are a decent side,” he added. “To come away with a point was fairly useful, but we were ahead twice and threw two points away.”
Smith hopes Saturday’s match against bottom side Waltham Forest (3pm) — the first of two back-to-back Saturday games at King’s Marsh, with Great Wakering Rovers visiting seven days after — doesn’t see the same inability to kill off sides.
“It has to be a must-win Saturday, the next two games are vital,” he said.
Jack Wignall will serve the last game of his suspension, while Michael Shinn returns to the midfield from his own ban, with Smith otherwise having a full-strength side, with the exception of Eyre, to choose from.