Griffiths needs longer to recover from bust knee

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Needham Market manager Richard Wilkins (middle) is 'delighted' to welcome both Gareth Heath (far right) and Jamie Griffiths (far left)
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Needham Market manager Richard Wilkins (middle) is 'delighted' to welcome both Gareth Heath (far right) and Jamie Griffiths (far left)

Needham Market have announced the signing of two star players as they prepare for a new season in the Isthmian Premier Division.

Needham Market have announced the signing of two star players as they prepare for a new season in the Isthmian Premier Division.

The Bloomfields side have secured the services of Gareth Heath from Leiston and Long Melford talisman Jamie Griffiths.

Heath, a former AFC Sudbury skipper, is an experienced step three player who has also already been made captain of the Marketmen from the 2017/18 season.

The 37-year-old has long been admired by the club and manager Richard Wilkins said he was delighted to secure the signature of the goal scoring midfielder for the next two years.

He said Heath is perfect captain material and can fill the void left by former skipper Kem Izzet, who has left the club to take over as manager of Thurlow Nunn Premier side, Stanway Rovers.

“Kem Izzet was the captain last year” said Wilkins, who moved up from his role as assistant manager to take over from Mark Morsley at the end of the season. The only other player that could have stepped up as captain is Keiran Morphew but in a way, at 22 or 23, when someone comes in of Gareth’s stature, that could be detrimental to Keiran in lots of ways.

“Gareth was very happy to take on the role and over the years he has helped youngsters on and off the pitch, and I am sure that is something that will continue. He talks to the youngsters a lot, he is an extra voice along with the management team, and will help them through difficult times.

“We are really pleased that he has signed for us and having worked with him previously I know exactly what he will bring to the team.

“He is the best non league player to have not turned professional and in the years since I’ve managed, I have never had a fitter player.

“He had another good season last year scoring or assisting in 30 goals and I feel he is exactly what we need at the club.

“He will add experience to our young squad and for that reason I have made him captain and I’m obviously delighted that he’s decided to join us.

“We look forward to seeing him in the Needham shirt.”

Griffiths, however, will be unable to leap straight into action as he continues to recover from a cruciate knee ligament injury.

The injury sidelined the former Ipswich Town man for the entirety of last term, but prior to that he had been The Villagers’ leading marksman.

The 25-year-old forward struck 25 goals during their Thurlow Nunn League First Division-winning campaign in 2014/15, before finding the back of the net a further 31 times the next season.

Griffiths joined Ipswich Town as an eight year old, leaving at 19-years-old in 2011 before spells at Plymouth Argyle, Kettering Town and AFC Sudbury.

Wilkins said: “Jamie is still recovering from a knee injury and will be working closely with our physiotherapist Rob Earle, but he’s already demonstrated his determination and commitment to make the best recovery he can.

“Once we met and spoke, it was clear that it was a good fit for both the club and Jamie.

“He’s a player I’ve tried to sign before as has the chairman, Mark Morsley.

“He’s a gifted forward who’s played at lower level recently but scored lots of goals.

“I feel he can make the step up to the Ryman Premier Division.

“He won’t be available for the first two or three months of the season but, when fit, I believe he will be another great addition to our team.”

The announcement from the Marketmen follows the signing of centre half Dan Morphew last week.