Old faces and new beginnings to a much-changed but familiar-looking Leiston St Margarets in the Touchline Suffolk & Ipswich League. New player-manager Gary Lambert is content with his side’s start and pays tribute to a club legend who has been recognised in the community after more than 60 years of service.

Leiston St Margarets' long-standing John Barker receiving his Volunteer of the Year Award from the S

Leiston St Margarets' long-standing John Barker receiving his Volunteer of the Year Award from the Suffolk FA at Portman Road on Tuesday evening - Credit: Archant

After somewhat of a surreal summer which saw former manager Mark Banthorpe depart, and in doing so, leave just eight players at the club’s first pre-season training sessions, it’s fair to say it’s been a bit of a frenetic start for Touchline SIL Senior side Leiston St Margarets.

But, after a settling-down period under new player-manager Gary Lambert, who re-joined Saints in the summer from fellow SIL Senior side Ipswich Valley Rangers, the club are now very much in good hands and in positive spirits.

Ahead of this weekend’s home game against Westerfield United, ironically the club Banthorpe is now assistant manager for, Lambert, a renowned stopper at this level, is content at what he is seeing from his new – but at the same time old – look squad, despite picking up just two points out of a possible 15 so far.

“I don’t think we’ve started too badly – especially considering the condition of the club two weeks into pre-season,” said Lambert.

“We had just eight players turning up for training, but we’ve managed to get the local lads back and the progress we have made over the last six weeks has been very pleasing.

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“The local feel-good factor is certainly back among the squad.

“Everyone knows each other, we’re all friends, and that famous Saints team spirit and hard work will go a long way this season.

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“Although we haven’t won a game yet, anyone that has watched or this season knows that we’re more than competing in games – but we just need that cutting edge.”

Further research shows that St Margarets have scored just two goals so far, and although accepting that this is an aspect that needs to improve sooner rather than later, Lambert thinks his side can only move up the table.

“A lot of people wrote us off at the start looking at our pre-season results, but they didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes.

“I personally think we should be aiming for mid-table, and with the squad becoming more regular and settled, I don’t see any reason why we can’t achieve that.”

One man who will watch today’s encounter is Mr Leiston St Margarets himself - John Barker, who, after more than 60 years of service to the club in every role possible, was presented with his Volunteer of the Year Award from the Suffolk FA at Portman Road on Tuesday evening.

A full-of-admiration Lambert added: “John’s enthusiasm and passion throughout the years for the football club is phenomenal.

“He loves the game, and the club.

“As a person, he is the most honest and genuine person I’ve ever met, and he’s absolutely brilliant for us.

“He fully deserves the recognition after all the time and effort he keeps continuously putting in.”

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