Mark Morsley has said Ace Howell had his head turned by professional interest, but is he is now ready to re-launch his career at Needham Market.
The 17-year-old’s future had hung in the balance after a trial at Ipswich was cut short and Morsley banished him from the first-team picture over ‘commitment issues’.
But the tricky winger, who had burst on to the Ryman League scene from the Marketmen’s academy this season, has learnt a lot over the last month, according to his manager.
“There was a lot going on, with professional clubs looking at him and agents on the phone,” he said. “I think it all got a bit out of hand.
“But I won’t criticise him as it happens to hundreds of 17-year-olds.”
But after meeting with the player’s mother, along with chief executive Graham Emmerson, on Tuesday, he believes things are now sorted.
“I am confident that, after a very, very positive meeting with his family, we will move forward with him as part of our academy,” Morsley said.
Howell, the younger brother of Lamell, is set to play for Suffolk Under-18s in their FA County Youth Cup tie at Burnham Ramblers tomorrow (2pm), while Morsley said Ipswich have been kept in the loop with the situation and agree it has been handled in the right way. He added a contract is waiting to be signed.
Meanwhile, Ryman One North leaders Needham host fifth-placed Thurrock tomorrrow (3pm) with Morsley believing they will be half-way through what he expects to be a telling month, come 5pm.
“In many ways, this could be the defining month of the season,” he said.
“I can see Harlow just starting to wobble a bit and all of the teams we are playing are around us.”
Needham took advantage of second-placed Harlow Town’s slip-up in a 1-1 draw at home to Brentwood Town to go four points clear with a 2-0 win at Cheshunt on Saturday.
But it came ahead of the Hawks reducing it to one again, with one game in hand, with Monday’s 2-1 win at Aveley.
Following injury to Michael Brothers (who is available tomorrow) and the departures of Ryan Crisp and Danny Cunningham, the versatile Ollie Fenn was drafted into the frontline alongside Sam Newson.
Both were on target, with Newson opening the scoring in the 20th minute and Fenn doubling that advantage five minutes before the interval.
“Ollie was outstanding up there and will start there again,” said a delighted Morsley, who will look to name an unchanged side tomorrow.