SIMON Edwards said it felt ‘amazing’ after winning the Suffolk FA Grounds Team of the Year 2023 sponsored by Jacobsen Ltd.
The Ipswich Vale Exiles FC groundsman pipped Russell Haynes of Ransomes Sports FC and the Bacton United 89 FC team of Bryan Symonds, Roger Lawson, Clive Larke and Neil Hitter to the award.
Ipswich Vale Exiles FC will receive £500, runners-up Ransomes Sports FC will receive £300 and Bacton United 89 FC £100 to spend on grounds equipment.
The prizes will be in the form of vouchers to be spent with Ernest Doe Ltd.
Russell Haynes, Groundsman at Ransomes Sports FC, who was runner-up in this year's competition. Main photograph: Simon Edwards, Groundsman at Ipswich Vale Exiles FC.
Although Ipswich Vale Exiles no longer have a first team or Reserve side, the pitches at their Halifax Road ground are used by the club's U17, U17 & U18 sides, Women's team and two Veterans' teams as well as Hope Church FC and Tattingstone United FC.
Simon Edwards said: “I was very surprised to hear that I had been nominated for the Grounds Team of the Year, but to be told that I had won, against some very good and hard-working Grounds Teams, is amazing.
“Our ground is a big site, and with six pitches it takes up a lot of time, so I am lucky I have an understanding wife.
“I feel extremely proud to win this award which was judged by local professional Groundsmen at the very top of their game.
“It really does mean a lot to know that people value the hours spent trying to keep the pitches in their best possible condition, and it makes the work all worthwhile.”
The Judging Panel for this year’s competition was as follows:
Ben Connell, Ipswich Town Grounds Manager
Will Parker, owner of Parkers Pitches
Matt Stebbings, Suffolk FA Football Development Manager
Ben Connell said: “After a wet month, I have been very impressed with the quality of the pitches we have seen today.
“Once again, the dedication and passion of the grounds teams is outstanding. They should all be commended for the great efforts they make.”
Will Parker said: “As always, it’s great to see the many passionate grounds people across the county.
“The standard has been higher than ever, which is great credit to their hard work through the difficult conditions seen this season.
“We see many other brilliant grounds people in Suffolk through our work who get very little credit, so would encourage clubs to nominate them for this award next year.”
Bacton United 89 FC were third in this year's competition Pictured above during Wednesday's visit (left to right) are Roger Lawson, Will Parker, Bryan Symonds, Clive Larke, Ben Connell and Matt Stebbings.
Matt Stebbings said: “It’s great to see all the hard work our grounds teams put in throughout the year.
“The competition is there to celebrate the journey these members of the club go on to ensure football can be played week in, week out.
“Not only pitch quality, but resource, staff, equipment and finances make up a good grounds team.”
In addition to their prize money, the three winning clubs will be invited to the Suffolk FA Awards Ceremony in the autumn.