Former Colchester United Academy player Callum Harrison believes AFC Sudbury can sustain a play-off challenge
AFC Sudbury may not have had the start to the season their supporters would have hoped for but Callum Harrison believes it can still catch fire – and end in the play-offs.
After making his return to the club from a spell in New Zealand with four games in 12 days, including a reserves outing, the former Colchester United Under-23s player feels the squad has addressed what he saw as their Achilles heel.
Having worked in the academy as a coach all last season, Harrison knows the talent coming through as well as anyone.
But it is the extra experience, both from academy graduates in the team last season, coupled with the additions of seasoned players Sean Marks and Adam Bailey-Dennis, he sees as the key to moving them forward from their eighth-placed finish in 2018/19.
“I can see from the few months I have been away how the young lads are progressing really well,” he said after making his 50th appearance for the club in Tuesday’s 4-0 home Group 1 Velocity Trophy victory over Felixstowe & Walton United.
“I think a lack of experience was probably our downfall last season. There was a bit of naivety in the play sometimes so to have the experienced bodies around us is always a positive for any team and for us especially it is something we really needed.”
Before Saturday’s 3-0 home win against Basildon United, only their opponents and two other sides had collected less points than AFC’s six across their opening six games.
But ahead of Saturday’s trip to another of those slow starters, second-from-bottom Brentwood Town (3pm), last season’s top goalscorer, with 16, is confident they can find themselves in the promotion mix come the end of the season.
“We won at the weekend and shot up to ninth place (from 16th),” he said. “The league is tight and if we can put in a run of a few wins back to back it should put us right up there with the play-off places.
“I have looked at the table and the other teams that are in the league and I don’t see any reason why we can’t be pushing for it this season. I know that only one team goes up automatically but I don’t see any reason why we can’t be pushing for the play-offs.”
Playing for East Coast Bays in Auckland in the top tier of the regional winter leagues during his three-and-a-half months in New Zealand, Harrison also believes he has come back with a new outlook.
“I just wanted a different challenge and experience. I did it by myself and I think it helped me grow as a person more than anything,” he said. “With the football I probably was not as fortunate to have it as good a standard as here, but in terms of the lifestyle and the actual experience I really enjoyed it.”
AFC Sudbury enter another cup competition on Tuesday with Hadleigh United visiting in the Suffolk Premier Cup second round (7.45pm).
Harrison was part of the Needham Market side who beat Lowestoft to lift the cup at Colchester United a few years back, and would love to re-create that experience with Sudbury.
Suffolk Premier Cup: Won it with Needham at Colchester United - final against Lowestoft.
"It is definitely something I would like to do," he said.
"Any cup competition for me is one that we've got to try and win. I want to win every game I play in, so I don't see why we shouldn't give that cup a run.
"If the league doesn't quite come off it would be nice to have a cup run.
"We obviously got knocked out of the FA Cup which we had a good run in last year and any cup competition where you can string some results along is a positive for the club, without doubt."