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Ipswich Town’s Nico Valentine excited about the impact he can make on loan at Needham Market

Ipswich Town’s young forward Nico Valentine says he’s ‘itching to get started’ at Needham Market following his loan switch to the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central high-flyers, writes Drew Kendall.

Valentine, a former Debenham High School pupil who signed a three-year contract with the Sky Bet Championship Tractor Boys in October 2022, scored twice during Ipswich’s run to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup during the previous campaign.

The 18-year-old has also been a key feature in Town’s Under-21s’ Premier League Cup campaign this season, as well as being part of the Under-18 team that won the Under-18 Professional Development League Cup in 2021/22 – scoring twice in the final against Coventry City.

Nico Valentine has joined Needham Market on loan from Ipswich Town Picture: Mecha Morton
Nico Valentine has joined Needham Market on loan from Ipswich Town Picture: Mecha Morton

“I've been itching to get started ever since the move got confirmed and I’m ready to hit the ground running,” said the player who has already got experience of the non-league scene in Suffolk with Bury Town last season.

“I always enjoy getting the opportunity to have different experiences at Ipswich and the two games under the lights at Bloomfields (Under-21s Premier League Cup) have been my favourite this season so far,” he said.

“The lads and coaching staff have been great even from the minute there was even slight interest for the loan.

“The boys have been welcoming and just trying to make it as easy as possible for me to feel comfortable and part of the group which allows me to just focus on the football and show what I can bring to the team.

“I already know a little bit about the club because through the years I've had friends that have been involved in the setup at Needham, most recently Seth Chambers who has been proving himself and making his mark over the past couple of seasons.

“This has also meant that I've been down to a few games over the past couple of years including the two very good FA Cup runs the club has experienced recently and I think that is part of the reason I wanted to be involved at the club, to take the next step in my career, it's clear to see there is a good vibe around the club and a group of experienced players that all want the same thing which I think is crucial for the next step of my development into the men's game.”

Despite his loan move being confirmed last Friday, Valentine was not involved as Needham came from behind to register a 2-1 victory at home to Bromsgrove Sporting on Saturday.

Callum King-Harmes had put the visitors into a 16th minute lead but two goals inside two minutes, from Jake Dye on 65 and Chambers on 67, saw a dominant second-half display rewarded.

It leaves Kevin Horlock’s side second in the table, five points off leaders Mickleover with a game in hand, ahead of tomorrow’s trip to 11th-placed Barwell (3pm) before Leamington visit on Tuesday (7.45pm).

Meanwhile, midfielder Byron Lawrence has signed dual registration terms with Ipswich Wanderers as he continues his injury comeback.