Long Melford FC celebrate 150th anniversary with plans for new facility
PUBLISHED: 11:57 10 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:57 10 August 2018
A historic non-league football club in west Suffolk is celebrating its 150-year anniversary with plans for a new clubhouse.
Long Melford FC is believed to be the tenth oldest football club in the country and new facilities at their Stoneylands ground are planned for next year.
The club, which now boasts a first team, reserve team, two under 18 teams, eighth youth teams and two young ladies’ teams, is keen to safeguard its long-term future with a first-class recreational facility.
Draft plans have been drawn up for the £500,000 scheme and it is hoped work will start in spring next year.
John Nunn, club director and Babergh councillor, said: “We are very pleased that we have made much progress this year with our development plans.
“A considerable amount of the expected cost of the half-a-million pound scheme is in place, and we look forward to having this brilliant new sports facility not only for the senior teams and supporters of this historic club, but very importantly for the ten plus junior teams that use the ground regularly.”
The club began its illustrious history on January 14, 1868, on the church green in the village with a match against Ipswich Rangers – with Long Melford running out 5-1 winners.
The ball used in those early days was an animal bladder covered in hessian, and the village launched a ‘Penny-a-Week’ campaign to purchase a leather ball.
The club was interlinked with the church as it began and the team moved to various ground locations in the village.
The total running expenses for the club in the successful 1887/88 season amounted to £30 – while expenses for three officials at a match last season came to more than £300.
Melford picked up the Suffolk Senior Cup in 1887, beating Woodbridge Town 1-0 in a replay after defeating Ipswich Town in the semi-final.
In 1863, Long Melford player William Neville Cobbald was capped by England and in 1895, the club once again won the Suffolk Senior Cup.
A third victory in the competition came in 1909 and the club continued to thrive throughout both war periods – playing at different venues in the village.
A great rivalry existed between Melford and Sudbury and matches between the two clubs often attracted more than 2,000 people.
Lurching from success to extinction, the football club survived some dramatic years before buying their present ground at Stoneylands through public subscription in the late 1940s.
Several professionals have featured for Melford down the years. Ex-West Ham full-back, who kept the Black Lion pub in the village, became player-coach in the late 40s.
Soon after this, former Barnsley, Wolves and Leicester player Bert Barlow was appointed player-coach, and in 1953 the club beat Sudbury Town after a replay to win the Suffolk Senior Cup again.
Until 1959, The Cock and Bell pub was used as head-quarters and changing rooms, with players forced to walk down the village street for games at Stoneylands.
The club now play at step five of the football pyramid in the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division.
Mr Nunn added: “The club is going from strength to strength. We have got big hopes for this year with a good crop of players.
“We have taken on more directors at the club recently, and more hands make light work.”