Fate helps get former Football League star to the Marketmen

BACK IN THE GAME: Former Ipswich Town midfielder Ian Westlake has made a return to football after 18 months to sign for Needham Market
BACK IN THE GAME: Former Ipswich Town midfielder Ian Westlake has made a return to football after 18 months to sign for Needham Market

Needham Market manager Mark Morsley has revealed the part fate played in his pursuit of former Football League midfielder Ian Westlake.

The 29-year-old former Ipswich Town and Leeds United man signed a rolling one-year contract at Bloomfields this week after more than a year exodus from the game following his release from Canadian side Montreal Impact, where he made 13 appearances, scoring twice in the North American Soccer League.

However, the deal may never have come about had it not been for a chance meeting between Morsley and Westlake regarding the latter’s interest into setting up a rental business, which proved the catalyst to the move, much to the manager’s delight.

“Obviously we’re delighted to have him, having a player of his calibre is massive for us,” he said.

“A rule change regarding the number of overseas players in Canada meant he wasn’t included in the squad and I think he lost his way with football a bit.

“After a year out he wanted to return to England to set up a business and I was asked if I could help.

“He spent a few days with me and I kept chipping away at him about the football side and thankfully he agreed.

“He knew a number of people connected with the club and the move just made sense, it just felt right and happened at the right time.

“The year away from football changed his focus. He has a company that he wants to establish and a young family he wants to spend time with.

“Ian could go back into the professional game but he doesn’t want that, with us it’s not as big a commitment as in the professional game.

“He looked at everything and it wasn’t about going to the biggest club he could, it was about finding the right place.”

However, despite conceding his new signing’s priorities may not be in football anymore, he is more than confident Westlake, who famously beat former Olympic swimmer Karen Pickering in a 50-metre race in 2004 and also captained the England Schoolboys water polo team, will still prove a shrewd signing.

“He is certainly not past his best and him deciding to come here is a great endorsement for the club,” he added.

“The fire is definitely still inside him to play, he was first out at our first pre-season training session this week and the last off the pitch.

“He is focused on everything. He may have priorities elsewhere but he can mix that with his football fix.

“He is renowned for his unbelievable fitness and those levels are still there as well as a phenomenal left-footed delivery. The important thing is to get the best out of him.”

n The club were also boosted this week by the news that their apprentice side, under the guidance of Kevin Horlock, will be playing in Thurlow Nunn League First Division in the coming season.