THURLOW: Former Bury Town captain Tom Bullard and Leiston centre-back partner Joe Jefford sign up to Stowmarket Town's promotion drive
Stowmarket Town manager Rick Andrews believes they have added 'steel' and 'leadership' to their defence after pulling off the eye-catching signings of Tom Bullard and Joe Jefford.
The experienced duo formed the central defensive partnership at Step 3 Leiston last season but have been convinced to drop down two levels to be part of a promotion charge at Greens Meadow.
It comes off the back of Stowmarket announcing the signing of former Ipswich Town professional Jack Ainsley, meaning Andrews has now made five post-season signings, with five departing.
Bullard is well known in non-league football for leading Bury Town to their highest ever level during a glorious decade with the Blues under manager Richard Wilkins.
After moving across Suffolk to Leiston in the summer of 2014, under the management of Steve Ball, he established himself as a key figure in their recent rise as one of Suffolk's leading non-league clubs.
He captained them through a sideways switch to the newly-formed Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central where they finished one place above the relegation zone last term and was still under contract at Victory Road, so required an undisclosed transfer fee to prize him away.
Jefford, who has played more than 400 games for Leiston as a bedrock of their defence on their climb up the non-league ladder, like Bullard was believed to be in high demand. But as his contract with the Blues had expired he is able to join Stowmarket as a free agent.
And now the pair will have the chance to be able to reignite their partnership which had been so successful in recent play-off seasons at Victory Road, leaving manager Andrews delighted.
"Tom Bullard is a very experienced central defender who will bring in elements of steel and leadership to the club which I felt we lacked at times last season," he told the Free Press.
"Joe Jefford's contract had expired at Leiston so he was a free agent.
"He is another who is similar to Bullard. He has played Step 3 and has made over 400 appearances for Leiston and pairing the two up together again I felt was an opportunity I could not miss.
"He obviously brings the same qualities and is a winner."
He hopes both players can be the missing links in a promotion challenge and said both having young families and wanting to reduce travelling was a factor in getting them to agree to drop down to the Thurlow Nunn League.
The five new signings fill the void of five departures in Matt Paine (Hadleigh United), Phil Weavers (Mildenhall Town), Scott Chaplin (Mildenhall Town), Max Melanson and Robbie Linford.
* See Friday's Bury Free Press print edition for more reaction to the eye-catching treble signing.