By Mark Williams
A WAR of words has erupted this week ahead of next month’s eagerly-anticipated Suffolk Premier Cup final at Portman Road.
Bury Town chairman Russell Ward has slammed Needham Market for their refusal to budge on the date of the match – meaning the league and cup double-chasing Blues will now travel to Ipswich for their evening kick-off on Friday, April 15, before visiting Cray Wanderers for a critical Ryman League Premier Division clash less than 48 hours later.
Bury have made it clear their priority lies in securing an historic promotion to the Blue Square Bet South and, so long as they remain in the hunt for top spot, are now likely to field a shadow side for the county showpiece.
“I’m deeply disappointed in Needham’s response,” said Ward.
“It is important to let our supporters know that they could travel to Ipswich to watch a weakened Bury Town side – perhaps even some of the under-18s.
“I can’t blame Richard Wilkins if he fields a side of fringe players – we are not foolish enough to think we can achieve both the Suffolk Cup and then beat Cray in such an important league game less than two days later, with the same players. The club will back Richard with whichever personnel he selects.”
Only time will tell whether the Blues will still be in contention for the league title come mid-April, but even a worst-case scenario would see Town at least aiming to cling on to a play-off berth.
“I am tempted to go to the FA in Wembley because it is a pity nobody can use common sense,” said Ward. “It is a shame clubs can’t help each other out.
“A few years ago, Lowestoft Town were on the verge of going bust and so we organised a mid-season friendly with them to help raise money for their cause.
“We had our own problems in the league that year and didn’t need to do it, but the last thing we wanted was for them to go bust.”
Mid-April becomes all the more important for the Blues seeing as the cup final is set to be contested just six days after Bury’s must-win top-of-the-table clash at league-leaders Sutton United.
Town manager Richard Wilkins said: “Things like this burn bridges. Needham Market benefit more from Bury Town than the other way round and it stinks to be honest.”
In response to Bury’s claims, Needham chairman David Bugg said: “I don’t understand Russell’s problem. As far as I am aware, when Ipswich Town give you a date to play it, you either take it or leave it.
“We were told the date was set in stone so we quickly booked coaches, the hotel and pre-match meal for the players.”
More on this story in this week’s Bury Free Press