Ian Westlake signs for Needham Market just 18 months after falling out of love with football

Ian Westlake celebrate scoring an equaliser for Ipswich Town at Sheffield United in 2004

Ian Westlake celebrate scoring an equaliser for Ipswich Town at Sheffield United in 2004

Eighteen months ago Ian Westlake fell out of love with football.

Playing in the MLS for Montreal Impact, the attacking midfielder was released by the Canadian club after a new ‘six foreigners only’ ruling came into force.

It was the final straw for him and he returned home to Suffolk, tired of the game he had enjoyed so many good times with.

Today, however, it’s all changed, and Westlake – still only 29 – is looking forward to a new footballing challenge at Ryman League North side Needham Market.

A chance to rekindle his love with the game, a chance to put something back into a sport he has reaped much out of over the years.

Now running his own business, Westlake doesn’t need to have to play, but Needham Market manager Mark Morsley can be quite persuasive!

“I’ve known Mark since I started getting my business up and running when I returned to Suffolk last year,” said Westlake, who made over 200 Football League appearances for Ipswich and Leeds.

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“He always said he would get me playing for him one day, but I didn’t believe him. Now though I’m really excited and looking forward to it.

“I’m honestly completely open-minded about the whole thing. I enjoy training and I always enjoy games.

“I think playing at Needham will be fun and I know Kevin Horlock (ex Ipswich player and now Needham coach) well. He has a cracking academy running over there.

“Playing football is not my life anymore, but enjoying it is important to me and I’m really looking forward to meeting the Needham boys. I can’t wait to get started.”

Westlake is certainly feeling positive about his move, although 18 months ago, he was far from positive about a game in which he made his professional debut for Ipswich Town in October 2002.

For seven years he played for the Blues and then Leeds United – enjoying good times – before a succession of short-term moves left him demoralised.

“I moved to various clubs after Leeds, but it seemed every time I went somewhere within a few months a new manager came in.

“Invariably you are regarded as ‘a previous boss’ man’, and the new manager moves you on.

“It doesn’t matter what you do, new managers want their own men in. Quite honestly there is only so much of that you can take.

“People said I’d miss the banter. Really? What banter was that? It was practically all the same, day-in, day-out.

“When the new MLS ruling about six foreigners came into force and the manager at Montreal released me, that was it for me to be honest.

“My family has ties in Suffolk, so we came back about 18 months ago.”

Westlake is an intelligent man and an intelligent footballer who is set to bring much to Needham Market, as manager Mark Morsley admits.

“With a lot of young, hungry talented players already committed to the club going forward, it was important to add a bit of class and experience to the group.

“Adding Ian to Jamie Guy (ex Colchester United striker) is a major step forward for the development of the club as these ex-professionals are still in their twenties.

“The signing has raised the bar for all concerned with the club and is great news.”