Needham Market’s magnificent seven
THE seeds of Needham Market’s unexpected revolution were sown within hours of the club being dumped out of the promotion play-off semi-finals earlier this month.
A fantastic first season in the Ryman League Division One North ended abruptly when Needham lost 3-1 to Brentwood at Bloomfields – having led the league for much of the season.
Canny manager Danny Laws knew that things had to change, that his brave side had been rumbled in the second half of the season.
But no one expected seven new signings and a total of seven others either exiting the club or, in former Ipswich Town player Kevin Horlock’s case, retiring to focus on Needham’s burgeoning academy programme.
In a whistle-stop week, Needham have signed two former Town men – veteran Gavin Johnson and former youth and reserve keeper Andrew Plummer.
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They will be joined by wide man Scott Chaplin and left-back Ashley Sloots, both from Bury Town, as well as Soham Town Rangers’ top scorer Deakan Napier, Hadleigh United captain Duane Wright and Ryan Foster, who has had spells at Bury, Mildenhall Town and Norwich United.
Leaving the club is talismanic top scorer Craig Parker and first team keeper Danny Gay along with Ben Wake, Michael Steward, Rhys Henry and Christy Finch who is returning to Lowestoft Town after his long-term loan spell.
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It is the signature of 40-year-old Johnson, who spent last season with Walsham-le-Willows, that is arguably most interesting.
Laws said: “We are delighted to have brought in a player of Gavin’s quality and experience.
“We have a particular role in mind for him and once we became aware that he might be available, we didn’t think twice.”
But with Horlock stepping away from the first team limelight, general manager Andy Gould was quick to dampen any speculation that Johnson could take on a player-coach role.
And explaining the huge turnaround in personnel, Gould added: “Ideally we wouldn’t make so many changes especially as we have had a core group of players for a number of years now.
“But in a matter of hours after losing the play-offs, Danny and I were looking at next season and the areas of the team we needed to strengthen.
“Knowing we could lose Craig and Danny, we drew up a list of players we would like to bring to the football club and we have been successful in that.
“I think players want to come here because of the progress we have made and the fact Danny is one of the brightest young managers in East Anglia.
“We know what we need to succeed next season and we are delighted with the new recruits.”