Yarmouth's civic pride in Bloaters

CHAMPAGNE flowed at Great Yarmouth Town Hall last week as players and fans of the Bloaters celebrated the club's promotion to the Ridgeons League top flight at a civic reception.

CHAMPAGNE flowed at Great Yarmouth Town Hall last week as players and fans of the Bloaters celebrated the club's promotion to the Ridgeons League top flight at a civic reception.

Dignitaries, including town mayor Tony Smith who organised the reception and the borough council's leader Barry Coleman, joined 20 fans and the Yarmouth squad to toast the club's first-ever promotion in its 113-year history.

The Bloaters won the Ridgeons League Division One title, losing just two games all season and gaining an average of 2.50 points per match, ranking them the 20th best team in the whole country, taking into account nearly 1,600 teams from level one (Premiership) to Level 11 (Anglian Combination Premier).

The players enjoyed Champagne and party snacks after showing off the trophy to their adoring fans from the Town Hall's balcony overlooking Hall Quay last Thursday.

Mr Smith praised the team and recalled watching the Bloaters during the days when the club's Wellesley Road ground used to attract crowds of between 3,500 and 4,000 for home games.

He said: “Events like yours don't come along too often and it is great that you have got promoted, and on behalf of the borough of Great Yarmouth we congratulate you on your achievement this year.

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“It is never easy to win the league because it means consistency and that is something that is never easy to achieve. Even Manchester United don't do that all the time.”

He added: “It is a wonderful achievement, well done lads. It is only right that we recognise these things. I have been watching for many years and so I can honestly say thank you very much and perhaps to make the end of the season a little bit different we invited you along tonight.”

Bloaters' boss Paul Tong thanked the borough council team for organising the reception.

Yarmouth goalkeeper Michael Hilton, 20, a former Norwich City academy player, said: “Obviously, winning the league was the icing on the cake of a great season. Having the best defence in the league in front of you, as a keeper, has been brilliant. We have got a great squad.”

The former York City player, who has played in most of the Bloaters' games this season, added: “It is very much appreciated what the council has done. Winning the league was a big thing and we understand the mayor is a Yarmouth fan so it was very kind of him to put this reception on.”

Central midfielder Martyn McGee, 28, hoped Yarmouth could emulate near rivals Lowestoft who have progressed through the leagues to the Ryman Premier Division after winning the Ridgeons Premier League in 2008/09.

However, he said the club could only achieve this if more fans turned up than the regular 70 or 80, as Lowestoft regularly attracted crowds of between 1,000 and 1,500. He hoped the team's success would encourage more people to watch them.

He said: “Obviously, the high was winning the league and how we did it, only losing two games all season and only conceding 20-odd goals all season. Yarmouth have always been in the top flight locally. It was the first time we were relegated from the Premier Division in 2004. This is the first time we have been promoted.”

One fan attending the reception was Richard Attwood, who lives in North Quay and watched three-quarters of the Bloaters' games last season.

He said: “It is a great honour. It is wonderful for the town to put this on and for the supporters to come up and have a drink with the manager and the players. What a fantastic achievement it has been for the town.”