Manager brings Paul Hayes to AFC Sudbury as he targets promotion
Just when it looked like going down as one of his quietest ever summers for transfers, we can reveal Mark Morsley has pulled off one of the most high-profile coups of his career in signing five-time Football League promotion-winner Paul Hayes.
The 34-year-old striker – with more than 100 goals to his name across England’s top four tiers – is set to put pen to paper on a two-year deal at AFC Sudbury this morning after striking an agreement to make the Suffolk Bostik League club his first venture into non-league earlier this week.
When the Free Press spoke to Morsley on Monday afternoon, he told us there were no signings on his radar, showing how quickly the deal for the player, who has had spells of more than 50 appearances for Scunthorpe United, Barnsley and Wycombe Wanderers, came to fruition.
Despite having missed out on some high-profile targets before then, namely Billericary Town’s treble winner Matt Paine and former Norwich City and Colchester United striker Jamie Cureton, and declaring he will play the kids instead, he was still confident of challenging for promotion via the play-offs.
That has not changed. But with Hayes’ arrival Morsley now says he has a key piece of the jigsaw in place to recreate his promotion-winning formula at former club Needham Market, saying he will ‘be my new Kem Izzet’.
Revealing how he came to land the player who was in League Two with Newport County last season, where he made 13 appearances, scoring three times, the Yellows boss said: “When you have been around as long as I have and have got as many friends in the game as I have, you end up doing each other favours, as it is like a members’ club between us managers, as we know how tough it is.
“A great friend, Steve Pitt at Chelmsford, had given me the heads up Paul was unattached and a deal with Dagenham & Redbridge had not come to fruition.
“Steve Foley (Needham Market Reserves manager) knows him well as he coached him at Norwich as a youngster.
“Steve is a great friend of mine, so I had an insight into him and it went from there.”
Of the capture of Hayes, who scored 117 goals in the Football League from more than 500 appearances, being voted as Scunthorpe United’s very best strikeforce with partner Billy Sharp, he said: “I sold him the ambition of the club; the chance to move us forward by working with youngsters as a figurehead striker.
“I said from day one I was looking to add someone who can make us better, and in terms of names they do not come much bigger than someone like Paul Hayes.”
The forward, who turns 35 on September 20, is set to train with the squad for the first time tonight, but may not get his wish to be involved on Saturday away at Tilbury as his spell in Wales means the club have to seek international clearance during the madness of a transfer window closing before he can make his debut.
* For the rest of this AFC Sudbury preview, grab a copy of this week's Free Press print edition.