Walker believes new-look AFC can achieve promotion

GELLING WELL: Paul Walker is excited at how quickly things are coming together with the new-look AFC team Picture: Clive Pearson
GELLING WELL: Paul Walker is excited at how quickly things are coming together with the new-look AFC team Picture: Clive Pearson

New AFC Sudbury goalkeeper Paul Walker believes bouncing straight back up to the Bostik League Premier Division is within the squad’s capabilities, despite the huge summer turnaround.

The 25-year-old, who was snapped up from Thurlow Nunn League promotion-winning side Haverhill Borough following Marcus Garnham’s departure, is confident their 2017/18 season can be much more than just a transition campaign.

With 12 players leaving following their relegation, the winds of change have blown through AFC with a whole new squad now finding their feet together.

But Walker, who made one first-team appearance for Northampton Town — the club he was with from the age of nine up to 20 — thinks the overhaul can be beneficial.

“I think it is probably the best thing to start from scratch,” he said, having been one of 10 new arrivals. “The players that were here last season are going to have that losing mentality and memories.

“A lot of the players — like the four who nearly got promoted with Maldon last season — know this league and know what it takes to get out of the league.”

Asked if bouncing straight up was a possibility, he replied: “Definitely. You can see just from pre-season with the way we played how quickly we have gelled together. We have only spent six or seven weeks together but I am excited as if that is what we can achieve in six or sevens weeks, what can we do in six or seven months come April or May time?”

Having had a free mid-week after sealing their FA Cup progress in the Preliminary Round at the first attempt with Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Aveley, AFC return to Bostik League Division One North action in a double header this bank holiday weekend with a trip to Dereham Town on Saturday followed by a home Suffolk derby with Mildenhall Town on Monday (both 3pm). And Walker will be looking to add to his first clean sheet, having drawn 1-1 on the opening day of the campaign, before the following Tuesday’s away game with Maldon & Tiptree was abandoned at half-time due to floodlight failure with the game locked at 1-1.

Having been called up for the non-league national side: England C, during a successful three-and-a-half-year spell with Corby Town that saw him help them earn promotion to the Conference regional tier, Walker explained it was falling out of love with the professional game that was behind him dropping down the leagues, ending up playing at Step Six with his home-town work mates.

“I was playing at Kettering Town last season in the Southern Premier and it got to about September and I just hated it; the egos of the players, the politics, the travelling. I just walked away because I’d had enough.

“With Haverhill Borough it came about as I worked with some of the players and they were pestering me saying ‘come and train with us, come and play with us’, and as soon as I went training I just really enjoyed it again.”

Walker revealed he had actually spent the last month of the 2016/17 campaign training with The Yellows, having offered his services on hearing Garnham was out injured. It led to him then being Godbold’s easy first-choice replacement for the fans’ favourite.

The self-confessed perfectionist had received other offers, but said: “Sudbury is easy as it is only 25 minutes away for me. And with the facilities at the ground you are not going to come across much better at this level.

“Danny Potter (ex-Cambridge United goalkeeper coach) was a big factor for me as well.”