IT HAS been a ‘dream year’ for AFC Sudbury Women’s treble-winning team.
AFC Sudbury won Division One South of the Eastern Region Women’s League, the League Plate and the Suffolk Women’s Cup to complete the most successful season in the club’s history.
Manager Luke Mallett said promotion to the Premier Division of the Eastern Region Women’s League was an exciting moment for the club, who now have the chance to prove themselves at a higher level.
He said of their treble-winning achievement: “It’s been a long, tough season. Due to going deep in so many different cups and competitions, we’ve really had to dig in.
“I’ve had to ask a lot of the girls and each one of them really stepped up to the mark and in the end it all paid off with the girls getting everything they deserved. I couldn’t be prouder of such a young and hungry squad.
“At the start of the season our aim was promotion into the Premier Division. From the cancelled Covid seasons, we learnt a lot and adapted and this year we knew we had enough to go up.
“However, the standard of the league this year really did step up from the season before, with new teams coming into the league. This really pushed us to the very end.
“With the county cup we knew we could go far, and we felt with Ipswich Town not entering, it really could be our year. Having said that, due to having a young squad we worried whether the girls could keep standards high throughout the whole season, so the credit really goes to all the players, who remained focused and hungry from start to finish. The 2021-2022 season really was a dream year!”
Asked which of the three trophies gave him the most satisfaction, Mallett replied: “Winning the league always feels the best. To show a level of consistency week in, week out and to come out on top after a hard nine months of football, is the greatest achievement and fills you with the most fulfilment.
“However, on a more personal level, the county cup has been a cup me and (executive director of women’s football) Adrian Goodwin have looked at for years.
“When we started bringing some of the girls up in football from under-14s all the way to women’s football, we always believed they were a special bunch, so to have many girls still playing for us, added with others who have the same desire and ambitions to win, was a really special moment for all associated with the club.”
The possibility of the treble hung in the balance as AFC Sudbury trailed 1-0 at half-time to Hutton in the Plate Final at The New Croft in Haverhill, before winning 2-1.
Mallett said: “You could see that it was our last game of a long season. Although we had lots of chances, played good football and controlled the game, we looked leggy.
“The message was simple at half-time: It’s our last game of a fantastic season, let’s not slip up at the final hurdle. Give everything you’ve got and make the treble-winning season happen. Go make history.
“The girls will be sick of hearing this but I say it before every game and at half time in every game. The longer games go on, due to our youthfulness, energy and strength in depth with the subs/squad, the better we get, so once we scored one, myself, the coaches, players and supporters all knew we would kick on and win.”
Mallett said winning the treble had ‘shone a light’ on the Women’s section at AFC Sudbury and that he hopes the team can now push on over the next few years.
“Winning the treble sets a standard from which we can’t drop now. The club have always been so supportive and behind the women’s section, however it’s really shone a light on these girls and has got the attention from everyone. It’s a fantastic club and the best place I know for women’s football in the area.”
And as for competing in the Premier Division next season he added: “It’s a really exciting moment for the club and the girls. This is where we always thought we belonged and now we have the chance to prove ourselves and hold our own in this league.
“We believe we can be sustainable here and really push on over the course of the next few years.”
The AFC Sudbury Women’s squad are pictured above after completing the treble following their victory over Hutton in the Eastern Region Women’s League Plate Final. Photograph: Sean Doyle