Braintree Town legend Sean Marks opens up on his move to AFC Sudbury
Giving something back to the game as a mentor for young players was the big appeal for Sean Marks choosing AFC Sudbury as his next destination on a glittering non-league career.
The 33-year-old took the decision this summer to drop down to Step 4 of the non-league football pyramid for the first time in his career.
His goals have been responsible for writing the Kelvedon-based player’s name into the history books of Essex clubs Braintree Town, Heybridge Swifts and Hornchurch at higher levels.
But as he enters his twilight years as a player, Marks is hoping to help Mark Morsley leave a legacy at Sudbury that will stretch far beyond what he can do in front of goal.
“When Mark explained everything about the project and what he wants to do here it was really appealing to me,” said the player who made more than 300 appearances for Braintree Town on their rise to the top tier of non-league during an eight-year spell.
“At this point in my career I thought do you know what? I could really benefit with playing with some young lads and helping them improve a bit more.”
It could even have happened a year earlier for Marks, who revealed he has just started work on his coaching badges in his spare time.
“I did speak to Mark last summer,” he said.
“I decided last year I was going to take a step down into the Ryman Prem (Isthmian League Premier Division). The season before I was at conference (National League).
“But after playing last year with Hornchurch I realised this is the type of club I would actually like to be with.
“I talked to Mark this year and when he sold it to me I was more than happy to come down.”
Manager Morsley believes Marks, who has signed a two-year contract, can have a positive impact not only on the field but off it too. And speaking with him, it is clear to see he has an infectious personality.
“It was one of the sells to me that Mark was saying ‘actually, you would help these young players evolve. There might even be something ability-wise that you might not be able to take but they might learn something about you personality-wise’.”
Following former professional striker Paul Hayes’ departure from the club in the off-season, Marks is now set to take on the experienced role model for all the younger players. But probably none more so than 16-year-old second-year academy striker Freddie King, who he has found himself playing alongside him up front in the early pre-season friendlies.
“There is some fantastic young talent here,” said Marks.
“I think me and Fred have got to aim for getting a partnership going together.
“I will work hard and he will and hopefully it will be brilliant for the club itself.”
But when asked, having experienced what it takes to get promoted at his former clubs, if this current squad could be too young to achieve their goal in the upcoming season, he is clear in his answer.
“I have got every confidence they have got a chance. Some of the ability I have actually seen in training and even in the first 20 minutes of the Chelmsford game (7-0 defeat); people calm on the ball and not giving it away. Taking care of it and looking to attack the pace. They are all attributes that will get you through the leagues anyway.
“I have a real confidence that if we can all work together there is every chance we can (get promoted). And once we get on a roll, who knows when it could stop?”
“I am really excited for this season. There is a lot of positivity.”
Marks still feels he has a lot to offer with his own talents on the pitch too though, and having bagged 18 goals for Hornchurch in their first season back in Step 3 since promotion, as The Urchins finished 15th, the statistics seem to back that up.
Goals are far from the sole focus of a player who started in the senior team as a 16-year-old at Heybridge in the Isthmian League Premier Division though.
“This is the first time I have ever played at this level and I still think I am young enough to give something to the team,” he said.
“I’d like to think I’ll get goals but give me a 1-0 win and I don’t score, rather than a 2-1 loss and I score any day.
“Anybody who knows me will know that is what I am about: I am a team player, I’m not about individuality.
“I am usually a target man. I will hold it up and lay it off to other people and get in the box, that is my type of thing. Get the ball wide and cross it in – that is what I thrive on.”
Marks should have no problem quickly getting on the same wavelength as Reece Harris and fellow new signing Adam Bailey-Dennis, having played with both during his Braintree days.
And there is a feeling of destiny playing its part as he assesses his latest surroundings at King’s Marsh.
He said: “I have always been aware of their results throughout the years through and I always had a feeling I could get involved in the club at some point.”
* AFC Gold Week 10: £100 (281) V Alber, Hillcrest Rd, Sudbury; £10 (219) C Tatum, Holmewood Drive, Giltbrook Nott’m; £10 (224) Mrs G Scott, Constitution Hill, Sudbury.