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Stowmarket Town will relish favourites tag in Thurlow Nunn Premier title bid

In any normal season, the 101 points total that Mid-Suffolk side, Stowmarket Town amassed in the 2017-18 Thurlow Nunn Premier Division would have seen them crowned champions or promoted at the least. Unfortunately for Stowmarket and their long-serving boss, Rick Andrews, it wasn’t a normal season. Felixstowe & Walton United and Coggeshall Town racked up 109 and 115 points, respectively, to secure the top two positions and canter to Bostik League football. Coggeshall’s success was in the spotlight due to the close involvement of British pop sensation Olly Murs, who has reportedly invested some of his wealth into the Essex club.

Nevertheless, it was an excellent campaign for Stowmarket, considering it was their first season back in Step 5 football. The team’s recent success has fostered a great atmosphere at the club’s Greens Meadow clubhouse, with members, management and players alike fostering community spirit. The Old Gold and Blacks are said to have sold almost 50 season tickets for the coming season, for which any team at Step 5 level would long. The club has already introduced free entry for Under-16s to entice the next generation of supporters away from virtual football slots and video games to support their local nonleague side.

The club’s support has grown immensely in the last 12 months, with average attendance up to around the 190-mark last season. They’ve traveled across East Anglia for away games, too, with a tremendous following of more than 100 Stowmarket supporters to watch their clash at Great Yarmouth Town; the real highlight — traveling support for which even most Step 2 sides would be proud. It was at Great Yarmouth that the club’s star striker, Josh Mayhew matched the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division record for the most goals scored in a campaign. Mayhew then went on to smash the record and finish with 56 goals to his name.

Stow boss, Rick Andrews, has done well to hold on to his prized asset, tying Mayhew down to a new two-year contract in the summer, along with a host of other key figures from last season. Andrews has also added several players with experience playing at Step 4 and above. The likes of which include former Needham Market captain, Sam Nunn, and former AFC Sudbury and Bury Town front man, Ollie Canfer, agreeing to deals, along with winger, Scott Chaplain — a former Thurlow Nunn Premier winner with Hadleigh United — and central defender, Tom Matthews, a player with Champions League experience during his short time with Welsh outfit, TNS.

These impressive additions — many of which have been brought up in the area and have an affinity to the club — to an already talented squad of players has rightly seen Stowmarket placed as firm favorites for the 2018-19 title. It’s a tag that boss Andrews believes is one that his players will relish rather than view as a millstone around their necks.

“If we are the favorites with people, that’s fine with me,” said Andrews in a recent interview with the East Anglian Daily Times. “We dealt with it last season and we will deal with it again this season. We got 103 points last season, which in most years, would get you [a] promotion. It didn’t, but [here] we go again. [A] promotion to Step 4 is what we want at this club.”

The club is no longer a hard sell off the pitch, either. Andrews’ backroom staff consists of an experienced and highly talented coaching team, including Tom Parke, who holds a UEFA A license. The club appealed enough to former Ipswich Town and Newcastle United defender, Titus Bramble, who also signed on with the club last season but would only go on to make one appearance in the Old Gold and Blacks shirt. Significant sums of money have also been invested in improving the club’s Greens Meadow home, with a brand-new pitch that will provide the ideal foundations for the slick passing football that is the ethos under Rick Andrews.

Last season, Stowmarket was forced to play their opening half-a-dozen league games away from home due to significant renovations to their pitch. Such likely contributed to their sluggish start that saw the Old Gold and Blacks playing catch-up to Felixstowe and Coggeshall for the remainder of the campaign. Providing they can make a solid start this time around, there should be no stopping the Suffolk side in their quest to bring Step 4 football to Stowmarket for the first time in the club’s history.

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