Former Ipswich Town star hoping for Championship success on pitch and in water

Needham Market's Ian Westlake

Needham Market's Ian Westlake - Credit: Andy Abbott

Ian Westlake is chasing championship glory on two fronts this season, having seen his summer switch to Needham Market go swimmingly.

Ian Westlake in action for Clacton at Crown Pools

Ian Westlake in action for Clacton at Crown Pools

A keen water polo player, the former Ipswich Town man has enjoyed a fluid start to life as a non-league player with Mark Morsley’s side, but is also making a splash in the pool with Clacton’s water polo team in the Essex League.

The 29-year-old helped his team make it almost 100 games unbeaten on Thursday and is enjoying the freedom playing part-time affords him.

However, he is still taking his football seriously and is determined to be in the mix for promotion with Needham, come the end of the Ryman League Division One North season.

Ahead of the Marketmen’s game at home to Erith & Belvedere today, the ex-Leeds United star said: “For me, playing at Needham is not as intense as it was when I was playing as a professional.

“We get really good support at Needham and still take it seriously but football is not my life now.

“We train on Tuesdays and Thursdays and play on a Saturday and that works for me as I wanted to do other things.

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“If I want to spend a Saturday morning with my family I can, whereas that would not have been possible when I was a professional.

“Football has set me up nice and a lot of people find it hard when I say I don’t miss playing professionally but it has just freed me up a lot more.

“I play water polo with my brother (Adrian) and my dad (Nick) who also joins in when we are short and the team has been well without me and I think we went our 94th game unbeaten the other night.”

While his team are making a splash in the water, Westlake is making an impact with Needham – who are currently undefeated.

They may not be a professional outfit but Westlake sees similarities to his time as a professional.

“It’s fun, there is a bunch of nice lads there and we have Steve Foley on the coaching staff who has worked a lot as a coach in the Football League,” he said.

“It’s nice to have someone at that level. Mark Morsley (manager) is a really good people person and manages the other side of things and tends to leave the coaching to Steve.

“It was similar at Ipswich Town under Joe (Royle) and Willie (Donachie) where Joe would manage and Willie tended to do most of the coaching.”

Needham are sat in fifth position ahead of today’s game at Bloomfields and the signs are that things are likely to get even better.

“It’s been going quite well generally and we have not lost a game yet,” said Westlake, who has scored two goals for his new team, including a superb free-kick on his debut.

“We have a had a few draws and we need to score more goals, but it’s been a good start considering the number of new faces brought in during the summer, who are still getting to know each other.

“Our target is promotion and we don’t want to let the manager down.

“But it would be nice to win something for all the people that work behind the scenes at the club who never really get much of a mention.

“It is such a well-run club and the amount of time people there afford to it is amazing.”