AFC Sudbury’s fan favourite and club legend James Baker has transferred to an Isthmian Premier League team for next season.
The central defender — who was awarded the Supporters’ Player of the Year gong a mere eight weeks ago — has moved to Harlow Town for the 2017/18 season.
He is part of a double Sudbury scoop for The Hawks, as they have also agreed to a deal for left-sided defender Jack Wilkinson.
Wilkinson, who played 95 times for AFC, scoring five goals, has only recently returned from a prolonged hamstring injury.
But Baker, who is eighth in the all time appearance charts with 302 games to his name and fourth on the all time scoring list with 97 goals, had been singled out as the fan favourite for the last season.
He also won it in 2013/14, and 2014/15.
Both players had expressed a desire to play at as high a level as possible following AFC Sudbury’s relegation from the Isthmian Premier Division last season, and Hawks boss Danny Chapman wasted no time in securing the services of the two players ahead of the new campaign.
Andy Reynolds, assistant manager at AFC Sudbury, said: “We are obviously disappointed to lose James (Baker).
“But I understand that he wanted to keep playing at as high a level as possible.
“He’s a popular player, winning many awards since he arrived, and has been consistently good for us.
“I wish him well.”
Baker said: “The club has been a massive part of both mine and my family’s life for several years now and is the reason this has been such a hard decision to leave.
“There are too many to mention individually, but I would like to thank all the supporters, volunteers and directors who have given everything for the club and players.
“I am glad during my time we were able to give you all something to cheer with the Ryman North title.
“Thanks to Jamie (Godbold) and Andy (Reynolds) who have been brilliant.
“I am leaving with some great friends and memories.
“I wish all connected to AFC Sudbury the very best of luck for the next season and in the future.”
Losing two first-team defensive players will come as a blow to the club, who reacted to the Baker announcement by signing 19-year-old Alfie Carroll, an AFC Academy graduate.
Alfie Carroll, one of last season’s young players who graduated via the club’s academy and made nine appearances for the club last term, has signed a two-year contract with AFC.
The tough tackling full-back progressed through the academy into the club’s reserve sides as well as captaining the development side in the Ryman Under 21 League.
n The AFC Sudbury Gold fundraiser winners for week seven are: 1st £100 (271) Mr L Carter, Gaol Lane; 2nd £10 (236) Mr J Smith, Catesby Meadow; 3rd £10 (144) Mr S Day, Tudor Road.