Walsham le Willows FC History

The Meadow has been the home of the village football and cricket clubs going back to the late 1800s and the old pavilion still survives on the far side of the ground, originally this had a thatched roof, and water was carried across to it by bucket and then a two-wheeled hand water cart was pulled across by the players. With no electricity in the original building changing could be somewhat hazardous after the game on a cold December Saturday.

Football and cricket were both played at the present ground in Summer Road until the outbreak of war when the field was ploughed up to provide land suitable to grow food on. There is some confusion regarding the road that the ground stands on to this day because the signs erected by the highways authority show different names at each end of the road, Sumner Road at the main road and Summer Road at the village end. Football started up again after the war and was played at Grove Road in the village from 1947 and the club competed in the Bury & District League Division 2.

A new pitch was developed on Gallents Meadow in Ixworth Road and used from 1948 to 1951 (the reserve side was formed in 1949 to compete in the Bury Village league) when the club moved back to its present site after the generosity of the Martineau family provided the grass seed to reseed the field. Originally the pitch was across the field but upon the resumption of football at the meadow, the direction of the pitch was changed to allow a new cricket square to be laid in the centre of the field. The thatched pavilion was still in use and the additions of Calor gas for lighting and a Calor gas boiler for tea making improved the facilities for everyone.

The amalgamation of the cricket and football clubs in 1952 then formed Walsham le Willows Sports Club. The original football stand was built in the 1950s with the new pavilion in 1973, mains electricity was added at this time and the addition of a bar and lounge area followed soon after with the snooker room, kitchen and car park added the following year. The club’s teams have participated in the Bury & District league, Bury Village league, Stowmarket league, Suffolk & Ipswich league and now the Eastern Counties league. As a junior side, the club won the Suffolk Junior Cup three years running in 87-88, 88-89, and 89-90 after being beaten finalists in 73-74. Numerous Bury and district titles and cups were won before entering the Suffolk & Ipswich league in 89-90, promotion to the senior league was achieved in that season and was quickly followed by relegation before we established ourselves as a senior side in 97-98 by finishing in 4th position. League positions then went 3rd and 4th with the league knock out cup being won in both seasons. Manager Paul Smith was appointed for the following campaign and the league record then went 4th, 1st, 1st and 2nd with one league knock out cup victory.

Season 2004-05 was our first in the Eastern Counties League and we finished 4th with our first-ever Suffolk Senior cup final appearance at Portman Road. The following season cup success was achieved at Portman Road by winning the Suffolk Senior Cup in a thrilling extra-time 4-3 victory over Capel Plough. A creditable 5th position was achieved in the league and our first-ever appearance in the FA Cup.

The installation of floodlights, new changing rooms and the 100 seat stand give us a facility to be proud of. In season 06-07. we became champions of Division One after exiting all cup competitions early and gained promotion to the Eastern Counties Premier.

In 2011 the club achieved the FA Charter Standard Community Club Award, the main pitch was drained to improve the playing surface. The development over the road of 3 new pitches, car park, tennis court and artificial grass pitch 50m x 30m was completed in 2012 and provides us with some of the best facilities in the area.

Season 2012–13 was our best ever in the Eastern Counties League Premier Division with a position of 6th place and we followed this up with 8th position the following season. During 2013/14 the reserves completed a cup double in winning the league Chell trophy and the Suffolk Senior Reserve Cup to cap a fine season. A new “B” team was also entered in the Bury League.  In 2014/15 all teams bar our A side struggled mainly due to the departure of several first-teamers to other clubs making the other teams weaker as several Reserve team players stepped up to the first-team level. The first team did reach their first-ever Eastern counties Challange cup final losing out to League Champions Norwich United in the final.

New changing rooms were officially opened at the end of June 2016. 2018-19 saw several under 18’s used at the first-team level on a regular basis and they more than did themselves justice,  A tradition we hope to carry on with in the future. That season we finished a very creditable 9th in the League.

The Reserves won the Suffolk Senior Reserves Cup. The under 18’s won the Central Division of the Thurlow Nunn Premier Youth League in 2018-19 and will be playing in the Cambridge Division for the second successive season.  The A and B teams are both now playing in the Suffolk and Ipswich league following a successful season in the now-disbanded Bury and District League in 2018-19. Our Veterans team plays in the Norfolk and Suffolk Veterans League one having achieved 3 successive promotions.

September 2020 has seen Alan Marshall replace Keith Mills as Chairman after Keith had spent 5 years in charge. Alan takes charge at a very difficult time for football and sport in general and we wish him all the best.