Norfolk cup final bonanza

Local football fans can look forward to a feast of action with 10 cup finals in 24 days as the battle for Norfolk supremacy reaches fever pitch.

Norfolk County FA’s prime pieces of silverware are gleaming invitingly as 20 men’s, women’s and youth teams bid to end a quest for glory which began for 576 sides of all levels in the distant days of autumn.

Some of Norfolk’s best-known stadiums will be turned into Theatres of Dreams, as east meets west and neighbour goes head to head with neighbour in a series of season-defining battles.

While the players can’t wait to get started, the finals are also eagerly anticipated by the key administrators without whom none of it would be possible.

“It’s very hectic, it’s our busiest time of the year but it’s also the most enjoyable,” said Norfolk FA football administration manager Matt Carpenter.

“We enjoy it as much as the people involved,” added Matt, who is assisted by Steve Hemp in running competitions which are a treasured part of local football heritage, with the jewel in the crown – the Norfolk Senior Cup – dating back to Victorian times.

“We also have a pro-active cup committee behind us and their hard work is much appreciated by everyone,” said Matt.

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Meanwhile anticipation is also building for the referees and assistants ahead of the showpiece occasions, which come thick and fast after Friday evening’s John Savage Under-16 final at Dereham.

Barry Knight, Norfolk referee development officer said: “Being a match official at one of our county cup finals is a great honour and is a reward for their performance, hard work and dedication over the years.

“Peter Venables is a prime example of this. He was promoted a year ago to Level 5 for the current 2010-11 season and has continued to perform at this level to a very high standard. This has enabled the County FA to nominate him to the Football Association for promotion to Level Four and he has been appointed to referee the Norfolk Junior Cup final at Carrow Road which is an honour very few referees achieve.”

Friday March 25 – John Savage U16 Cup – Sprowston v East Lynn, Aldiss Park, Dereham, 7pm.

Sprowston, having won the trophy for the past two years are going for an unprecedented hat-trick. Flying high in the Norfolk Youth Combination, Sprowston are managed by Mark Starkings. East Lynn are going well in the Mid Norfolk Youth League.

Sunday March 27 – Norfolk Sunday Senior Cup, Marlborough v Dog House, Carrow Road, 11am.

Dog House, managed by Andy Eastaugh and Neil Simmons, meet Norwich Sunday League top flight title rivals in an eagerly-anticipated battle of city pub sides.

Marlborough, managed by Mark Jones, won the trophy in 2009, while two times previous winners Dog House were beaten last year by AFC Wanderers after a penalty shoot-out.

Friday April 1 – Norfolk Veterans Cup – Sprowston Wanderers v Norwich Trafford, Plantation Park, 7.30.

Sprowston Wanderers from the Norfolk FA Veterans League take on Norfolk and Suffolk League outfit Trafford Veterans, who won the inaugural final last season by beating the Griffin. Sprowston are managed by John Blake, while Kevin North is at theTrafford helm.

Norfolk Junior Cup – Reffley Royals v UEA FC (venue and date to be confimed)

A battle of youth and experience as the UEA’s students meet the West Norfolk outfit. Reffley, who have made winning the Junior Cup their priority this season, are managed by Robbie Back.

The North West Norfolk League high-flyers have bought a new kit especially for the final. UEA, the Anglian Combination Division Four title favourites, are managed by former Norwich City Reserves player, ex-Norwich United manager Gary Butcher.

Norfolk Senior Cup – King’s Lynn v Dereham (venue and date to be confimed)

The jewel in the crown. Dates back to 1881-82 when Norfolk and Norwich beat Lynn Town 3-1. Has been running continuously apart from breaks because of the first and second world wars. In its heyday the finals used to attract tens of thousands to Carrow Road.

The game comes three days after Lynn play the second leg of their FA Vase semi-final against Coalville – so by the time of this game they will know whether they are at Wembley or not. United Counties League Premier Division title-chasers Lynn knocked Dereham out of the FA Vase.

Lynn, managed by Kevin Boon and Gary Setchell, hammered Thetford to reach the final while Ridgeons League Premier Division Dereham managed by Matt Henman, caused a minor sensation beating Norwich City at Carrow Road 2-1.

Friday April 8 – Norfolk Minor Cup, Gorleston Rangers Youth v Shrublands Junior, Trafford Park, Wroxham, 7pm.

There will be a new name on the cup for Under 14s after this meeting of teams from the seaside town. Shrublands are managed by Andrew Nicholls while Steve Deag holds the Rangers reins.

Sunday April 10 – Norfolk Sunday Intermediate Cup, Bayer v Bentinck Arms, Clipbush Park, Fakenham, 10.30am.

Look out for another new name on the cup as Norwich Sunday League outfit Bayer, run by player manager Chris Nelson, take on King’s Lynn outfit Bentinck.

Friday April 15 – Norfolk Primary Cup Belton v Hopton, Emerald Park, Gorleston, 7.30pm.

East coast rivalry at its best as Hopton, managed by Dave Riseborough taken on their neighbours, run by Pete Reddy.

Sunday April 17 – Norfolk Sunday Junior Cup, Fairstead United v Bell Inn, Clipbush Park, Fakenham (10.30).

Victory for the Barnham Broom pub side, would be worthy reward for Ian Babb, who manages to combine playing with the jobs of manager and secretary.

Sunday April 17 – Norfolk Women’s Cup, Norwich City Ladies v Hethersett, Aldiss Park, Dereham, 2.30pm.

Powerful Norwich City Ladies, managed by Scott Emerson and Emma Fletcher, will be favourites in the inaugural final.

The competition used to be a joint Norfolk and Suffolk venture, won last season by Norwich City, who beat Ipswich. Hethersett, managed by Chris Bolderstone, have won the Eastern Region Women’s League Cup for the last three seasons.

They are currently fourth in the Eastern Region Premier Division, the fourth national tier of women’s football – one below City who are in the South East Combination.