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Former Bury Town Golden Boot winner John Sands is chasing elusive promotion dream back at Lakenheath




He has been from the bottom to the very top of non-league in an illustrious career but John Sands is hoping his return to Lakenheath can deliver him the one prize that has eluded him – promotion.

While he has lifted plenty of cups through knockout football, the Mildenhall-based 33-year-old has only been able to watch on as others enjoy a final day celebration.

But the former Mildenhall Town striker is looking to use his golden touch back at The Pit – some 13 years after he started his journey in senior football there – to realise Lakenheath’s ambitions of Step 5 football. And in doing so, fill a big hole on his football CV.

John Sands, pictured on his second debut with Lakenheath last month, where he scored against King's Lynn Town before going off due to a broken nosePicture: Mark Westley
John Sands, pictured on his second debut with Lakenheath last month, where he scored against King's Lynn Town before going off due to a broken nosePicture: Mark Westley

“I know Waggy (Tony Lyle, director of football) well and a few others at the club and I spoke to Ben (Cowling, manager) and it just seemed like a good move,” he said of last month’s eye-catching transfer to the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North outfit, having begun pre-season with Olly Murs-funded Coggeshall Town, two levels higher up the pyramid.

“They are trying to get up the leagues and I could see there was a bit of potential there, so it is good to be part of it.”

But in true ‘Sandsy’ style he is not just looking to taste one promotion party before properly hanging up his boots.

John Sands has won plenty of knockout cups in his time, such as the Cambridgeshire Invitational Cup he is pictured holding in 2010/11 after his two goals won the final against Haverhill Rovers 2-0 for Mildenhall TownPicture: Iliffe Media
John Sands has won plenty of knockout cups in his time, such as the Cambridgeshire Invitational Cup he is pictured holding in 2010/11 after his two goals won the final against Haverhill Rovers 2-0 for Mildenhall TownPicture: Iliffe Media

The player who also includes Bury Town, Needham Market, Boston United and King’s Lynn Town among his former clubs, said: “I have never been promoted which is a bit of a weird one as I have always been with good sides.

“I’ve won the golden boot (Isthmian Premier with Bury) but we still did not win promotion.

“I have won a lot of cups; I’ve won the Suffolk Premier Cup about four times and the Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup three or four times.

“It would be nice to get promoted with Lakenheath, and then get promoted again.”

John Sands pictured celebrating a goal for Bury Town, the club at which he won the Isthmian League Premier Division's Golden Boot for as they reached the play-offsPicture: Roger Arbon
John Sands pictured celebrating a goal for Bury Town, the club at which he won the Isthmian League Premier Division's Golden Boot for as they reached the play-offsPicture: Roger Arbon

A respiratory energy-sapping illness, which had left him barely able to stand and breathe at times, but returned a negative Covid-19 test, meant he never made it to September’s first game with Coggeshall.

He had another false-start after signing for fellow Step 4 side Spalding United, only playing one game before the combination of travelling and his ongoing effects of the mystery illness caught up with him.

“After Spalding I put on Twitter that I had retired because I just thought do you know what I’m not right and I just need to take some time out of the game,” he said.

John Sands has scored some spectacular goals in his time, including this volley for King's Lynn TownPicture: Contributed
John Sands has scored some spectacular goals in his time, including this volley for King's Lynn TownPicture: Contributed

“And then a few weeks after that I signed for Fordham as I just thought I’d have a game with my friends and then, suddenly, Lakenheath came about.”

He was yet to train before he helped Heath out with a selection crisis, making an instant impact with a debut goal after starting in October 31’s 5-0 home win against King’s Lynn Town Reserves. But he also picked up a broken nose that forced an early exit.

Watch: Sands' favourite goals he has scored

He said: “It was good to get a goal straight away. It was a bit eventful and my nose is a bit bent at the minute.

“It was just a flailing arm that came after I scored, he didn’t mean to do it.

“I reckon if it wasn’t for that I would have got a hat-trick at least.”

Now he cannot wait to get back to playing with the Thurlow Nunn League’s re-jigged fixture list having them down to travel to lowly Cornard United on December 5 (3pm), presuming lockdown restrictions are lifted on time.

And with Lakenheath currently in sixth place with six wins from eight, three points off the top four automatic promotion places, he is confident he can help fire them higher.

“I am always confident of scoring goals. Obviously jumping down a few levels as well you just get that extra bit of confidence,” he said.

“I am just trying to take it as it comes and enjoy the football.”

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