Fulcher targets more glory
Norfolk captain Barry Fulcher is targeting top flight success after the county men's team clinched promotion to Group One of Summer County Cup for the first time in 35 years.
A 5-1 victory over the East of Scotland saw Norfolk promoted as champions of Group Two on the final day ahead of second placed Cheshire, who will join them at Eastbourne for Group One in 2012.
Only once, in 1977, have Norfolk competed in the top flight of the event, but four wins out of five in a fiercely competitive Group Two saw the current squad equal the achievements of the promotion winning side of '76.
Fulcher expressed his delight at the achievement of his team: 'I'm a proud skipper right now,' he said. 'This same group of lads has fought through thick and thin to get to the elite division of county tennis.
'We have a formidable group of players and a fantastic team spirit. It was a pleasure to captain this side and hugely satisfying to reach Group One next year.
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'I firmly believe we can go on to challenge for the title in Eastbourne next summer. Hopefully, our success will attract potential sponsors which will help towards kit and the costs of competing at the top level of county tennis.'
Norfolk's Richard Bloomfield, who was the only player from any team in Group Two to go undefeated all week, paid tribute to Fulcher's leadership and the team spirit: 'Baz always says the right things when we're in tough spots,' he said. 'Then it's down to the boys to dig in and get the results which we've done time after time. We all get on so well, we all fight hard and encourage each other throughout.'
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It was fitting that members of the last Norfolk side to play in Group One, including Robin Lincoln, who holds the record number of rubbers played for the county, and current NLTA President Tony Spurgeon, were on hand as Fulcher's men went up individually to receive their winners' trophies; warmly applauded by the assembled Norfolk supporters.
LTA Councillor Richard Palmer said in his speech: 'It is tremendous that in my first year as councillor I am able to present the Norfolk team with their trophies and may I congratulate them on a fantastic week.'
The week began with a rain-delayed 5-4 victory over Cheshire and Norfolk's lone defeat came on Tuesday at the hands of South Wales.
A re-shuffled Norfolk side bounced back in style on Wednesday with an emphatic 8-1 trouncing of Lancashire.
Thursday saw a 7-2 victory against Warwickshire, before wrapping up the title with Friday's win over East of Scotland.
Norfolk will face reigning champions Hertfordshire, Derbyshire, Kent, Surrey and Cheshire next year at Eastbourne.
• Norfolk Ladies captain Lucy Brooks praised the efforts of her team after they retained their Group Three status at Summer County Cup last week.
The team travelled to West Worthing Lawn Tennis Club without the talents of Amy Partridge, who is away in Thailand and 18-and-under national champion Pippa Horn, who competes for Great Britain at Summer Cup, but Dawn Springall's inclusion proved to be a masterstroke as she helped keep the side in Group Three.
Debutant Maddie Brooks also impressed and Lucy Brooks said: 'I am really pleased with the whole team; Maddie, in her first year was superb and Dawn came from Austria to help the team. Nine wins from 14 for each of the top two pairs is a great effort.'
An opening 6-3 loss to eventual champions Kent on day one was followed by Tuesday's 6-3 win over Devon.
Wednesday saw Norfolk fall 5-4 to Berkshire, but a 6-3 win over Derbyshire on Thursday confirmed Norfolk's survival and even threw them in the mixer for a possible promotion spot.
Norfolk needed a 6-3 win over promotion rivals Yorkshire but a 6-0 defeat put an end to hopes of Group Two.