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New Bards signing ready to start enjoying football again

NEW Stratford Town midfielder Tom Solanke is looking forward to enjoying his football again after linking up with the Southern League Premier Central outfit.

The former West Brom trainee put pen to paper on a deal this week following his release from National League North Boston United and admitted it was an easy decision to make, particularly after speaking to former Bards favourite Jaanai Gordon who was a teammate during his time with Boston.

Solanke explained: “I spoke with Jaanai on the phone and he told me that Stratford was a very good club and one that was well-run, so signing wasn’t really a hard decision for me.

“As soon as I got there and spoke to the chairman, I felt something for the place. He explained the plans for the club and for me and I thought ‘this is where I want to be’.

“I just want to start enjoying my football again because it has been a tough couple of years. I’ve not played as much as I wanted and I’ve felt that I’ve not progressed as much as I want to as a player. Stratford is a place for me to make a fresh start and to help the team be successful.”

New Stratford Town midfielder Tom Solanke
New Stratford Town midfielder Tom Solanke

Solanke had spells at Weymouth, Alvechurch and Stourbridge before linking up with Boston last summer with the Pilgrims then sending him out on loan to Ilkeston Town.

“Getting released from West Brom was a real set-back at the time - I had been there since I was 12,” the 22-year-old explained.

“When I was at Boston, I went out on loan but that means you can’t really settle down and call somewhere home. You need to have somewhere where you can walk into the ground and feel the buzz around the place. I haven’t been able to do that and I never really felt I was part of a team.

“I’m just desperate to play football and start enjoying the game again.”

And he added that Bards chairman Jed McCrory is hoping to give him a new role in the side. He explained: “I have been a defensive midfielder but he wants me to get further forward in a box-to-box ‘no8’ role because he thinks I’ve been holding back the last couple of years. He wants me to play much higher so that I have a chance to express myself.”

McCrory admitted he had been tracking the all-action midfielder for a number of years.

The Stratford chairman said: “I watched Tom quite a lot when he was at the Baggies and when you come out of a club like West Brom, you have good technical ability and that is certainly the case with Tom. After speaking with Gav (manager Gavin Hurren) - who has worked with him - we feel that with the engine he has, we’d like to see him released more.

“Tom has become very defensive-minded but we want to try and grow his game and harness the skills he has to break forward alongside the likes of Dan Lafferty and Jessie Akubuine. It will allow him to show people just what a good footballer he is and we’ll be challenging him to show us just how good he is. The one thing we are good at at Stratford is developing players.

“When we met at the club, I suggested he went away to think about it but he was adamant that he wanted to sign there and then, saying Stratford Town was where he wanted to be. It wasn’t about money but rather about choosing a club where he could develop, progress and learn to love his football again.”

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