‘Magnificent spirit’ key to Walsham’s run

THE MAN credited with a key role in the rise of Walsham-le-Willows to the top of the Thurlow Nunn League has hailed the ‘magnificent spirit’ of the team.

A run of eight straight wins put Walsham on top of the Premier Division for the first time in the club’s history.

Both manager Paul Smith and ex-Ipswich Town star Gavin Johnson, who is in his second spell with the village club, have recently praised the contribution of assistant boss John Taylor.

Smith admitted that Taylor’s knowledge has been a great help to him while Johnson revealed Taylor had made Walsham far more organised this season.

The former Cambridge United striker and manager joined Walsham last season as assistant to Smith, who he played alongside at Sudbury Town.

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Taylor, who admitted it had taken him time to adapt after returning to the non-league football scene, said Walsham had reaped the rewards of their hard work.

“This football club has no real superstars. We have a couple of good players – Ollie Hughes, who has scored several goals, and Ryan Foster – when they play well,” said Taylor.

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“But we are a workmanlike team, who work hard to keep the shape we have given them. You never get anything in life unless you put the hard work in, and we have reaped the rewards of that.”

Walsham hosted Ipswich Town in the John Banks Suffolk Premier Cup early on in their undefeated run, and although they lost 5-1 against a strong visiting side, put in a plucky performance.

Taylor said: “The game against Ipswich Town gave them some belief. It doesn’t matter what game you play once you get on a run you almost become unbeatable.”

But while enjoying their recent winning streak, which came to an end in a 4-3 defeat at Brantham Athletic last Saturday, Taylor is under no illusions as to the task facing Walsham to sustain a title challenge.

He said: “We are Walsham-le-Willows. We are a brilliantly-run football club, and chairman Mike Powles deserves great credit for everything this club has achieved, with some help from a few other people.

“He has worked tirelessly to provide facilities for not only football but also cricket, darts and snooker in the village.

“Can we win the league? Yes, of course we can. Mildenhall, Dereham, Brantham and Wisbech are all up there, and it will be just as hard for them as it will for us.

“But we get, on average, 61 supporters paying through the turnstiles every week.”

After a slow start last season, when Walsham amassed just nine points in their opening 14 matches, the Willows picked up 36 from their remaining 26 games to finish fifth from bottom.

They have maintained that improvement this season, and were sitting in tenth spot prior to their charge to the summit.

Taylor said: “What has changed in the last 12 months? Personnel-wise we have signed a couple of midfield players and added some experience. Gavin Johnson returned, but because of injury he has not featured in our run.

“The boys have really enjoyed it. They have a magnificent spirit between them, which not many teams do. It is a case of when one goes out for a drink everyone goes out and that includes me, Smithy and the backroom staff.

We are a tight-knit club – we don’t get anyone coming to play for Walsham from miles away.

“They have got to be local and fit in with everyone and also enjoy what we do off-the-field as much as we do on it.”

After temporarily being knocked off top spot, Walsham’s 2-1 win at Thetford Town on Wednesday night, courtesy of goals from Tom Agricole and Hughes, saw them go above Mildenhall Town again.

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