Johnson is first summer signing for Walsham

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VETERAN defender Gavin Johnson has become Walsham-le-Willows’ first summer signing after agreeing to return to the Summer Road outfit.

The 41-year-old joins the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division side, he last featured for in the 2010/11 season, after leaving Danny Laws’ Ryman League Division One North Needham Market at the end of the season.

Johnson, who previously enjoyed professional stints with Ipswich Town, Wigan Athletic and Colchester United earlier in his career, made a mammoth contribution to the Marketmen last season, featuring in a total of 52 matches in all competitions, scoring three goals.

Willows’ manager Paul Smith spoke of his delight at capturing Johnson and believes his experience will be vital as he targets a top 10 finish this season.

“The squad will be similar to last season but Gavin Johnson has also returned to the club which is fantastic,” he said.

“He has been before and knows the club well so that will help massively.

“It is great for us to have his experience around because the young lads will look up to him and his ability will enable us to push on this season.

“With Gavin here it gives us that experience at the back, which is important and should help us not concede so much.

“He is a big character in the dressing room and it should be a big boost to the club.

“He is still hungry to play every week and we know he can still everything he has got, which is fantastic for us.

“We have set our sights on a top 10 finish next season and I am sure Gavin will be important in us achieving that.”

Newly-promoted Thetford Town have snapped up the services of a former Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division winning left-back as they begin their preparations for the new campaign.

The Brecklanders, who opened their friendly campaign at home to Fakenham Town last night, have welcomed ex-Needham Market man Ben Wake to the club.

They have also retained most of the squad that got them to within goal difference of the First Division title last campaign - including top scorer Matt Dixon - but have lost Matt Howard to Dereham Town and skipper Sean O’Donnell to work commitments.

Winger Bruno Tavares will miss the start of the new season through injury.

Mildenhall Town manager Christian Appleford has begun the re-shaping process on his squad ahead of the upcoming league campaign.

The Recreation Way outfit have seen three of last season’s squad leave with 20-year-old left back Josh Turner joining Ryman League Division One North new comers Wroxham and Rogan McGeorge departing for league rivals Wisbech Town, while Craig Skipp has also left the club.

Speaking ahead of their first pre-season match with Ipswich Valley Rangers on Tuesday night (7.45pm), Appleford revealed he is close to replacing the departures, with a host of imminent new signings.

“The squad is starting to take shape with three players being released,” he said.

“We have a number of new faces lined up, including one very exciting coup for the club, who will all hopefully feature in the friendly against Ipswich Valley Rangers.”

<n> Meanwhile, Needham Market manager Danny Laws has challenged any perspective trialists to earn themselves a contract with the Marketmen.

Needham returned to pre-season training this week with a number of trialists, including two recommended goalkeepers to the club, expected to join the sessions as Laws looks at to fill the void left by departed custodian Liam Jones.

Both Darcy De’ath and Ollie Fenn earned themselves contracts at this stage last season after impressing in trials and Laws has urged others to do the same.

“We will have one or two players, who were recommended to us, joining in pre-season over the coming weeks,” he said.

“It is up to them to do their job and impress me now in order to show me why they deserve to be signed.

“I’m looking for that hunger and id they demonstrate that then they will have a chance.

“Darcy and Ollie did just that and are still with us now so these players need to do exactly the same.”