Blue-again Fabian Wilnis all set for Leiston debut against Margate tonight in Ryman Premier while the return of Colchester United loanees Jack Simmons and Conor Hubble remain on hold
Having signed for Ryman Premier outfit Leiston last week, former Ipswich Town fans’ favourite Fabian Wilnis is set to make his debut for the north Suffolk outfit tonight as they host Margate at Victory Road, kick-off 7.45pm.
Wilnis, 43, agreed to sign for Steve Ball’s men when required and as Ball’s thin squad is currently depleted by injuries, the former Town stalwart is in Leiston’s plans for this evening.
“Fabian’s had to sort something out at work but will be involved in some capacity on Tuesday night,” said Ball, who works with Wilnis at Colchester United’s academy.
“He’ll be involved for sure and I find it bizarre how some people have said it’s a bit of a gimmick.
“This is Fabian Wilnis we’re talking about. He’s a Premier League player.
“He’s the fittest person I’ve ever met and he’s agreed to sign for us when needed so why wouldn’t we sign him and use him?
“If we can play a 16-year-old in Stefano Mallardo, then why can’t we play a 43-year-old ex-Premier League player in Fabian Wilnis?”
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The charismatic ex-Town defender was adored by the Town faithful in his nine-year stay at Portman Road and will certainly be an invaluable asset to Leiston – whether that’s in the dressing room or on the pitch.
And despite age being against him, he still feels he can do a job at this level.
He exclusively told the East Anglian Daily Times on Friday: “I’m quite fit otherwise I wouldn’t agree to do it. The main thing about it all is me helping the defence out – lending my experience at a higher level to them.
“Hopefully I can help them out and teach them a few things.
“If I’m needed to play then even better, I can step in.”
Leiston drew 1-1 with Metropolitan Police on Saturday with Tom Bird’s exquisite strike cancelling out Joe Francis’ opener.
Bird’s goal was one of real quality with Ball adding: “It’s up there as one of the best goals I’ve ever seen.
“I’m talking van-Basten categories – I was right behind it and the technique used was simply sublime, he hit it from an obscene angle right into the stantion, it was unstoppable.”
The Blues face an underachieving Margate side this evening that Ball expects to see climbing up the footballing ladder sooner rather than later.
“They’ve got a lot of money over there and I expect them to be in Conference football soon.
“Tuesday will be one of our toughest tests of the season with all the injuries we have but we’ll be up for it.
“We had them watched at Bury on Saturday so we know what to expect.”
Compounded by injuries to Francis, Gareth Heath, Craig Parker, Patrick Brothers and Rhys Henry, who will all face late fitness tests tonight, Ball will also be without recalled Colchester United loanees Jack Simmons and Conor Hubble for the foreseeable future.
“The two lads had to go back for a Essex Senior Cup semi-final recently which was then frustratingly postponed 15 minutes before kick-off,” Ball said.
“Until that game is played (reschudled for March 6) they won’t be returning, so we’ll see.”
One player Ball will have available is new signing Emmanuel Osei, who has recently returned to the club after a stint at Suffolk rivals Lowestoft Town.
“I read something their gaffer (Ady Gallagher) said recently about a ‘mid-table side like us throwing cash around’ and it made me smirk,” added Ball.
“There’s two things there - one, they’re only just above us in the table, and two, Manny never cost us a penny!
“We funded the move for Manny from selling Ryan Crisp to Needham, it was a like-for-like and straight move, that’s the facts.”
Speaking of the two strikers, who have crossed borders in Suffolk, Ball added: “We felt Ryan needed time at a lower-level to prove himself and Manny fits the bill here - he already knows most of the lads and he’s a proven goalscorer.”
Prior to tonight’s fixtures, Lowestoft currently sit in seventh spot in the Ryman Premier, five places and seven points ahead of Leiston.