Retiring Berquez delighted to be going out on a high

WALKING AWAY: Ollie Berquez

WALKING AWAY: Ollie Berquez

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Ollie Berquez will feature for the 85th and final time in an AFC Sudbury shirt when they take on Harlow Town at the Wardale Williams Stadium on Saturday afternoon (3pm).

The 34-year-old has played a key role in the club’s triumphant Ryman League Division One North campaign this year.

However, despite remaining in peak physical condition, Berquez has decided that the time is right to walk away from the game with a league winners’ medal around his neck.

“I still feel that I could offer something because physically I am in decent shape,” he said.

“But, I have a three-year-old girl and an eight-month-old boy and I need to start spending time with them.

“My fitness company is growing and I am away most Saturdays at the moment because non-league football is a big commitment.

“Nineteen years is a decent career for a semi-pro footballer. I am blessed to have played for so long and I have loved every minute of it.

“I made my mind up around January, but there was no way I was going to lose focus as we battled for the title.

“Going out on such a high as a league champion makes it perfect timing.”

Berquez will be leaving behind a club that is seemingly on an upward trajectory, both on and off the field of play.

A 1-0 win at Tilbury earlier this month secured the title and rubber-stamped Sudbury’s place in next season’s Ryman Premier Division - a league that Berquez won with Chelmsford City in 2008.

While the midfielder has conceded that there was a temptation to have another crack at step seven on English football’s pyramid, he is backing the Yellows to enjoy a fruitful campaign in his absence.

“It was and still is tempting because I feel that I could play at that level,” he added.

“The club is in a great position behind the scenes and out on the pitch as well.

“It is the best changing room I have been involved in. The lads are great and there are no egos.

“If they can keep the nucleus of that together and maybe add two or three players, they could challenge again. Why not?

“It is an ambitious club with a great management team. They will keep building, I am sure of that.”

For manager Jamie Godbold, he is now charged with the tough task of replacing a player that provided a wealth of knowledge and experience to his squad.

“I heard whispers a few weeks ago that Ollie was thinking about retiring, but it was still a bit of a shock,” said the Sudbury boss.

“I understand his decision, especially because he has such a young family. You have to make sacrifices. Words cannot truly describe just how important Ollie has been to us.

“His performances on the pitch have been top class and in the dressing room he has been invaluable.

“Ollie is a great professional and one that will leave some big boots to fill.”