Desire to prove himself led to Liam Jones returning to Needham Market

GOALKEEPER Liam Jones may have been “gutted” to be dumped by Needham Market, but his desire to prove himself led to him re-signing for the Ryman League Division One North club.

Jones spent four years with the Marketmen before he was replaced mid-way through the 2009/10 season by the more experienced Danny Gay, who helped Needham to win the Ridgeons League Premier Division title.

After helping Needham reach the play-offs last season, Gay signed for AFC Sudbury at the start of the current campaign and former Ipswich Town Youth team keeper Andrew Plummer was brought in as his replacement.

But after a series of goalkeeping gaffes Plummer left by mutual consent, and Needham Market manager Danny Laws turned to Jones once more – and the 25-year-old keeper’s return has coincided with a mini-revival in the club’s fortunes.

Jones, who spent a season with Bury Town and half a season at Halstead Town, prior to joining Needham, recalled: “At the start of my fourth year Danny Laws came up to me and said he was looking to bring someone in to provide competition, although he originally said I would still be the No.1 keeper.

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“Then one Friday night I had a telephone call to say Danny Gay had signed and he would be playing on the Saturday, and I was subsequently told I was not needed.

“I was gutted because I thought I was good enough. I knew Danny Gay had a lot of experience, having played for Southend United in the Football League, and I had not played at that level.

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“I had a lot of stresses at work at that time – I was made redundant from one job and was studying for a university course, which I am still doing, which meant I could not make some training sessions and I put on weight which did not help me, but I was still disappointed.”

Jones signed for Ridgeons League Premier Division Felixstowe & Walton United, where he spent one-and-a-half seasons, before dropping down to join Division One side Debenham Leisure Centre this season.

Then a telephone call out of the blue in mid-January asking if he could help Needham out that weekend – Debenham were without a game – saw Jones figure in a 4-1 win at home to Maldon & Tiptree.

“I then had another phone call saying they wanted me to sign for the rest of the season,” said Jones, who sought advice from former team-mate Glenn Snell and Debenham manager Dale Vince before agreeing to sign again.

“I felt I needed to prove to myself and others that I am good enough to play at this level. I spoke to Glenn and Dale, who both said they had faith in me and that I was good enough and if I played to my ability I would not have any problems, so I trusted them and here I am now. I feel I have fitted in well and it is nice to be in the spotlight again.

“Just before I joined I went on a diet and I lost a stone in five weeks – I know I need to be fitter to play at this level – and that if I want to be here next season I need to produce some good performances.”

While doubts may persist about his presence on the pitch because of his height – Jones is 5ft 81/2in – he said: “I don’t see it as a problem; I like to come out and command my area – I see that as one of my strong points.”

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