Needham squad ‘stronger’ ahead of new challenges
He may be taking his team into the unknown of the Southern League, but Needham Market boss Richard Wilkins is confident they are a stronger outfit than last season and able to aim for a top-half finish.
The Marketmen flirted with relegation for much of last term in the Bostik League Premier Division before pulling clear to finish 19th – five places and 13 points above the solitary relegation place.
But with a heavy injury list having held them back ahead of the FA giving them a lateral transfer to the newly-formed Evo Stik Southern League Premier Central in a summer non-league shake-up, Wilkins believes that with their new additions they are set for a much better campaign.
“I think we are a stronger team now and one that can play the sort of football I want to play,” he said ahead of their opener at newly-promoted Warkwickshire side Bedworth United tomorrow (3pm) on their 4G pitch.
“I think that every player that has come in has added something to the squad.”
Five new signings have been made, including ex-Chelmsford City glovesman Jake Jessup taking over from now-retired goalkeeper Danny Gay, versatile wideman Joe Marsden joining from divisional rivals Leiston and forward Reece Dobson, who was kicked out of AFC Sudbury last season for verbally abusing an official, returning. Left-back Callum Sturgess has made his loan from Colchester United a permanent move, while pacey defender JJ Wilson has joined after being released from the same club.
Striker John Sands, one of those injured on and off throughout last season, is the most notable exit, rejoining Mildenhall Town.
Wilkins said: “Last year was difficult. We had a lot of injuries and when we had every player available we did not lose in a month.
“It did prove what we are capable of but we just could not get players regularly out on the pitch.
“We were safe with about 10 games to go in the end and ended up playing the kids to the end as we have so many injuries.
“I will be looking for top half finish (this season) and I think that is realistic for us as I have been very pleased with pre-season (four wins from four) and the players that have come in. I think we have a stronger squad than last season and the players have really invested in what I am trying to do.”
Dan Morphew, who is yet to play in pre-season, came through a good training session this week with Needham otherwise at full strength for Bedworth.