Portman Road-bound AFC Hoxne complete turnaround
After rumours their existence was under threat just a year ago, AFC Hoxne’s Jamie Scales has spoke of his pride at a fairytale turnaround which saw them book their place in a cup final at Ipswich Town.
The side only promoted to Suffolk & Ipswich League Division One last season beat Spexhall Huntsman and Hounds 4-1 at Bungay Town on Saturday to ensure they will get to grace the hallowed turf at Portman Road in the Suffolk Junior Cup final on May 24 (7pm).
And with the club set to face Ipswich-based promotion rivals Henley Athletic — who currently occupy the second promotion spot but are level on points with Hoxne (fourth) who hold two games in hand — in the final, manager Scales and his players are dreaming of writing history with a famous double celebration.
“It feels absolutely fantastic and is a very proud moment,” he said. “Most teams will never ever have the chance of playing at Portman Road. Players probably have a 10 year window where they can make it.
“You are up against all the best sides in Suffolk and you need a bit of luck along the way, but to get there is fantastic.
“But we want to go one step further now — you don’t want to just get there, you want to win it on the night and I think we have a good chance.”
It is a far cry from a year ago when Scales had to reassure people through the Express that the club was not about to fold, after a club statement was published on a local newspaper’s website stating their future was under threat due to issues surrounding the Hoxne Playing Fields where the club play.
The Playing Field committee had reportedly warned AFC Hoxne about ‘poor housekeeping’ at the club which led to concerns over the possibility of having to relocate if removed.
However, Scales, whose named appeared on the club notes, dismissed it as ‘a complete misunderstanding’ in the end.
And now he is hoping the village near Diss will get right behind his side on one of the biggest days in their history.
“The club has had some bad times but in the last five years everything has been turning around in our favour,” he said.
“We have had a lot of sponsors come forward for boards around the ground this year and I would like to think, as most the players come from Diss, there will be quite a large following and any support we could get from the village would be fantastic.”
“To contemplate getting to senior football and Portman Road in the same season, in terms of local football, you do not get any better than that.
“We were always expected to win the game as Spexhall’s route to the semi-final was a bit fortuitous as they were beaten in the earlier rounds (9-0) but got through due to an ineligible player.
“But things are never that simple and the players did the job. (Robert) Peake was unbelievable and I think 4-1 was arguably a fair result.”