BEN STEPHENS says he owes Stratford Town a debt of gratitude after completing his dream move into professional football.
Stephens’ dazzling form with Town last season, scoring 25 goals to finish the club’s top scorer, has been rewarded with a two-year deal with League Two newcomers Macclesfield Town.
The 20-year-old also had trials with Ipswich Town and Birmingham City last term and featured in the Jamie Vardy V9 Academy, while Stephens had been on Macc boss Mark Yates’ radar when he was Solihull Moors manager. Now the pony-tailed goal-getter has become Yates’ second new signing at Moss Rose.
“I’m buzzing to sign my first professional contract with Macclesfield Town in League Two,” said Stephens. “I can’t wait to meet all the lads and get started for pre-season.
“I want to thank everyone at Stratford Town for the chance to play regular senior football and wish them all the best in the future.
“I want to thank Stratford and the fans for all of the help and support they have given me. I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.”
The one-time Leicester City youngster, who joined Town from Kettering Town 19 months ago, netted 25 goals in 46 league and cup starts.
Stratford said: “The club wishes Ben the best of luck in the future and, whilst we are naturally disappointed to lose such a talent, we’ve fully backed his aspirations all the way. The ability and attitude that he possesses deserves this move.
“We thank Ben for all the great memories and the many unforgettable goals. He and his family will always be welcome at Stratford. Good luck for future successes at Macclesfield.”
Meanwhile, Stratford’s new manager Darren Byfield has continued to develop his squad for their debut campaign in Southern Central Step Three division.
Byfield has appointed ex-Coalville Town coach Steve Walker as his No 2 and also ticked off another three players for his squad.
Walker also worked as a coach at Corby Town, Desborough Town, Oadby Town and Rothwell Town before spending two seasons with Coalville.
“I’m delighted Steve has come to Stratford as my assistant,” said Byfield. “He is a man who demands a good attitude and strong work ethic.”
Byfield has also clinched the signing of front-runner Kynan Isaac, as well as welcoming the returns of forward Edwin Ahenkorah and defender Liam Francis.
The Town manager regards 25-year-old Isaac as the sort of player to provide the X-factor. The winger has experience higher up the leagues, having started at Reading as well as having a spell at Luton Town plus stints with Banbury United, Oxford City, Brackley Town and Aylesbury.
Centre-back Francis, who joined from Romulus in the 2015/16 season, featured in 52 of Town’s 55 matches last season, while former Redditch goal-getter Ahenkorah bagged ten goals in 37 starts and seven substitute appearances. Both will be back for their fourth seasons at Town.