New challenge as Parker bids to join non-League’s elite

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JUST 12 months ago he was lifting the Ridgeons League trophy, but Bury St Edmunds-based Craig Parker is now dreaming of joining the likes of Cambridge United, Luton Town and Lincoln City.

The midfielder, who scored 41 times for Needham Market last season, made the switch to Blue Square Bet South promotion hopefuls Chelmsford City last week, rejecting the advances of two Ryman Premier clubs.

And he is now targeting a place among the country’s non-League elite as the Essex side bid to end three years of play-off heartbreak.

Parker said: “Chelmsford are a massive club and when I went to meet Glenn Pennyfather (the manager) he told me about how they had lost in the play-offs the last three years but wanted to go one better. I’m delighted – it’s such a big opportunity.”

The former Bury Town player – who scored 112 goals in 176 games after moving to Needham Market – has still not given up on reaching the Football League, and was watched by Southend United manager Paul Sturrock this year.

Parker added: “It’s always nice to believe I could still do it – I always wanted to play in the Football League when I was younger. But I’m hoping to grab the opportunity with Chelmsford with both hands – I think I can play at that level. It’s a new challenge for me.”

Despite opening a new chapter in his career, Parker will remain grateful to those who helped his time at Bloomfields become such a success.

“Needham are a fantastic club,” he said. “They are run very professionally and I can’t speak highly enough of Danny Laws, Andy Gould or David Bugg.

“It was a difficult decision to move, but when the opportunity arose, it was just one I couldn’t turn down.”