The Early Days of Saxmundham FC
In 1892 Saxmundham FC was officially formed becoming affiliated to Suffolk FA and soon after, in 1894/95, were finalists in the Suffolk Senior Cup, losing to Long Melford 2-1. It would be another 100 years before we again reached the Suffolk Senior Cup final, but more of that later.
Records of the early years are sketchy but the Club played in the grounds of Hurts Hall, roughly where Manor Gardens now stands, thanks to the kind backing of Wm Long Esquire. Around the turn of the century we lost our senior status and instead played in the Leiston and District League winning Division 2 in 1911/12.
Soon after, football stopped due to WW1 and some players sadly lost their lives or were incapacitated during the conflict. Football returned to Saxmundham in 1919 and around this time the Club changed its name to Saxmundham St John’s FC moving grounds to the opposite side of Church Hill. During this time the Club was playing in the Woodbridge & District League, winning the Division 1 title in 1925/26 and again in 1926/27.
In the 1930s the Club moved again, this time to the recreation ground in Rendham Road. We were now playing in the Ipswich & District League which contained Ipswich Town Reserves. Unfortunately the Club failed to raise a team in 1934/35 and withdrew from the league.
1938/39 saw the team reform as a section of the recently formed Saxmundham Sports Club and the name changed again to Saxmundham Sports FC, as it is today. However the home pitch was still the recreation ground. This new team had one season in the Woodbridge & District League before play was again interrupted by war.
Post War Progress
1946 saw football played again, this time in division 1 of the newly reformed Leiston & District League, and in 1946/47 the team won the Granville Cup (League knock out cup). Soon after a reserve team was formed playing in division 2.
1949/50 saw the Club move to its present home at Carlton Park and in the early 1950s rejoin the Ipswich & District League, staying for only two seasons before returning to the Leiston & District League. In 1964, having won both the league and cup, it was decided to return to the Ipswich & District League.
In the early 1970s Eric Noy started up Saxmundham Juniors (under 13s) playing in the newly formed Leiston & District Youth League. This was the birth of youth football at the Club and further youth teams were formed under the management of people such as Jimmy Lummis and Ron Thompson. Over the years many former players have managed youth teams at Saxmundham helping to coach the players of tomorrow.
Over the years there has also been Ladies football teams in Saxmundham, the last time being in the 1990’s, and in 2018 a Girls team was formed.
In 1987/88 the First Team won division 2 but had only a brief initial stay in division 1. As a division 2 side the Club had success in winning the Junior Cup Final 1-0 versus Beccles Caxton in 1990/91.
In 1992 the Club celebrated its centenary with a match against Ipswich Town Youths, who included future ITFC first teamers James Scowcroft and Tony Vaughan in their line up. A large crowd enjoyed an entertaining match at Carlton Park which Saxmundham won 2-1.
1992/93 saw the Club regain its Senior status for the first time since the turn of the century by finishing runners up in division 1. This first year back in Senior football saw an incredible run in the Senior Cup, reaching the final which was played at Portman Road against a very strong Woodbridge side (who were top of Jewson League division 1 at the time). The result was a 4-0 defeat but it was a fantastic experience for everyone involved and arguably this was the most successful period for the Club as it had a very strong committee, two good adult teams and several youth sides.
Unfortunately, whilst doing well in the cup and with a backlog of matches at the end of the season, league form suffered which resulted in relegation back to division 1. However, the following season saw the team winning division 1 and bouncing straight back to the Senior division, only to again suffer relegation the following season. To date Saxmundham has not been able to reach these heights again.
Turn of the Century
The following years saw a gradual downturn in fortunes as the First Team slowly slid down the divisions and in the early 2000’s the Club folded. After two seasons in the wilderness a group of players reformed the Club with just one adult team entering division 5 of the Ipswich & District League. What followed was a run of consecutive league titles until the team reached division 2. In the meantime a Reserve Team was reformed and shortly after youth football returned.
Further success saw division 1 football at Saxmundham again and a narrow defeat in the 2012/13 Junior Cup semi-final meant the First team just missed out on another appearance at Portman Road. Soon after the adult section again had a downturn with the First team slipping back down the divisions and the Reserve team folding again. In recent years the First team won back to back promotions to reach division 1 again but dropped back into division 2 where we sit at the time of writing.
In 2017 the Club celebrated its 125th anniversary with a fantastic day of football starting with the U11s and finishing with the veterans, made up of former players returning to grace the hallowed turf one more time, and the evening was rounded off with a concert at the side of the pitch.
The success of the youth teams and wanting to ensure the young players have a pathway into adult football, resulted in the Reserve team being reformed for the 2017/18 season. The second season back saw the Reserves win promotion from division 4 to the Intermediate C division.
In the 2019/20 season the success of the Girls section allowed two teams to enter the league. Boys youth football also continues at the Club and the adult squad includes many players who have come through the youth ranks.
The past 125 or so years of Saxmundham Sports FC has seen many ups and downs, and fantastic characters have come and gone. The current committee members, coaching staff and players are simply custodians of this great Club and it is important for the town that it continues to thrive and hopefully stay for many years to come.
Author’s note: I have pieced together the above from various sources including the centenary programme, old minute books and my own memory, and I apologise for any incorrect facts. If there are any known errors or additional facts that I have missed please let me know and I shall add to the records for future reference.