Start of Sudbury’s season is uncertain as hearing looms

UNCERTAIN START: AFC Sudbury manager David Batch (back) with head coach Steve Eastaugh  in the dugout
UNCERTAIN START: AFC Sudbury manager David Batch (back) with head coach Steve Eastaugh in the dugout

The start of AFC Sudbury’s Ryman League season has been thrown into doubt as opening-day opponents Thurrock appeal their relegation.

Yellows manager David Batch is hoping his side’s pre-season does not have to be extended if a decision from Thurrock’s arbitration hearing is not made before August 10, when the season is due to kick-off.

The league have confirmed they are waiting on a date for the independent panel to review a three-point deduction made over fielding banned player Joel Barnett last season, which led to their relegation after the season had finished.

Of the threat of AFC’s season being delayed, Batch said: “I hope not because it will mean we will have the longest pre-season ever, but I am sure it will get resolved.

“I think it is really harsh on them, if they checked (if Barnett was banned).

“I always make a point to check, I have already got it in my diary to check with our secretary every one of our players, particularly the new ones, aren’t suspended at the start of the season.

“If you do that and it comes back and says no, they are fine, you can’t do anything about it.”

The situation means AFC could still be handed new opponents on August 10.

Thurrock announced this week they will not be appealing over the decision to relegate them from the Ryman Premier, upheld by the FA hearing, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which could have taken 109 days.

But it could be four weeks before the arbitration hearing decision is released, which would potentially interfere with AFC’s first two games, with Soham Town Rangers due to visit on August 13.

The league fixtures were due to be published on Monday but were delayed until yesterday, also holding up the release of the Thurlow Nunn League First Division fixtures until next week with several clubs, including AFC Sudbury Reserves, sharing grounds with Ryman League clubs.

Meanwhile, Batch has confirmed veteran central defender Josh Carus has signed permanently from Wroxham following his trial period to become his 10th new addition, with nine having been registered with his former club.

“He has been with Wrxoham for about 15 years, he has won the league below about eight times and numerous other things,” he said.

“He is probably in the last year of his career but he wins every header.”

Batch was also set to talk to his former Wroxham midfielder Angelo Harrop about making his trial spell permanent.

“He has been playing well and I am hoping to do a deal with him this week,” Batch said yesterday.

But a deal to bring ex-Ipswich Town midfielder Jamie Griffiths back to the club has stalled due to his work commitments.

“His late shift covers his football 2-10pm every other week so he has to suss out what he wants to do and whether he can get out of that,” said Batch, who has released French trialists Emile Lembe and Steven Fula-Pitu.

AFC continued their pre-season campaign over the past week with a 5-0 home defeat to a strong Colchester United side followed by a 4-1 win over Fakenham Town.

The latter saw a return to action for striker James Baker, with an own goal off him being followed by strikes from Carus, Ryan Henshaw and Harrop.

The Fakenham game had originally been listed as a reserves fixture but gave the AFC manager a chance to see what his attacking players could do after hard games against higher-league opponents Lowestoft Town and Colchester, with AFC set to host King’s Lynn Town on Saturday (3pm).

“The first two games in particular were all about what the individual does and I have learnt quite a bit,” he said.