PUBLISHED: 19:08 26 April 2017 | UPDATED: 19:08 26 April 2017
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A lifelong Ipswich Town fan is to jet off on a 1,000-mile round trip from Madrid to Portman Road and back again to make sure he sees his oldest son play in a cup final.
Steve Roper, from Hadleigh, will leave his youngest son Jonny’s stag weekend in Spain to dash home and see footballer Mark play for Crane Sports on Sunday afternoon.
The 54-year-old, one of a party of 15 flying out on Saturday afternoon, is forking out £247 to return for the Suffolk FA Senior Cup final.
He hopes to arrive in time for the 2.30pm kick-off, and after the match – which will see Cranes face Achilles – Steve and Mark will fly to Madrid.
They will return home again with Jonny in tow on Tuesday.
Steve, who unusually shares his name with the chairman of his son’s club, said: “I wouldn’t miss the final for the world. It is a small price to pay given that I have been following Mark throughout his career.
“I first took him to watch an Ipswich Town game as a five-year-old on a December night at Swindon in 1991, and have been watching him since he started playing.”
Centre back Mark started his career at Norwich Academy and has since played for Cambridge City Reserves, AFC Sudbury, Norwich United, Diss Town, Needham Market, Woodbridge Town and Hadleigh United.
The 31-year-old had a brief spell with Bramford United before signing for Cranes two years ago, captaining the team to the league title in each of his first two seasons.
Steve, who has been a season-ticket holder at Portman Road on and off for more than 30 years, said: “Mark has never played at Portman Road and it is one of the last remaining ambitions he has got in the game.
“I am sure it will be a good game between two well-matched teams who know each other well.
“Mark and I will be flying out at 8.15pm after the final, arriving in Madrid just before midnight, so we will be straight out on the city, although it will be a better evening, or early morning, if Cranes win the cup.”
Just five weeks after brother Jonny’s wedding, Mark is due to tie the knot himself, marrying Annika, who is the sister of Cranes team-mate Ross Rands.