Leiston boss Glenn Driver believes that striker Matt Blake put his career before money when he turned down a move to Ryman Premier League rivals Billericay Town.
The former Norwich United striker has attracted interest from higher up the non-league pyramid and from Football League clubs, but it was big-spending Billericay that made the first firm move for his services.
However, Blake rejected a move to New Lodge and chose to stay with Leiston as they look to secure a play-off place.
That move led Driver to laud the attitude of his forty-goal striker, although he believes that some Football League clubs will be showing more of an interest over the coming weeks.
He said “We have had interest from clubs higher up the pyramid regarding Matt and I believe there will be a lot more interest over the coming weeks.
“He wants to play in the Football League, hence the reason he turned down a move to Billericay, and let me go on record and say the deal offered to Matt was a very, very good one but he is not all about money.
“He wants to play at the highest level possible, he put his career ahead of money and for him to do that shows the desire he has to reach his goals.
“As a club we didn’t stop him from moving to Billericay, he decided at this moment in time it wasn’t the right move for his career.
“We will do all we can to help Matt reach his target and I’m sure clubs will want to talk to him in the summer”
Had Blake opted to move to Billericay he would have followed in the footsteps of former Leiston team mate Byron Lawrence.
The midfielder chose to make the switch to the Essex club two weeks ago, a move that Driver (pictured below right) says was “pretty much taken out of our hands” and it was a move that meant he was desperate to keep hold of one of his other prized assets.
“Losing Byron Lawrence was pretty much taken out of our hands as he was quite keen to move on.
“He is a big loss to us and I wish him well for the future, however keeping hold of Matt Blake was something I felt we were desperate to do.
“His goals, work-rate and desire is something that can not be coached, he has been massive for us and we are grateful he has decided to put his future before his pocket.
“Matt is a massive player for us but we are not a one man team, his goals have been huge for us but he hasn’t reached 40 goals playing on his own.
“He respects his team mates and acknowledges the services he gets within the side.
“He makes unbelievable runs and we have good quality players that see those runs, and once in front of goal nothing phases him and his finishing speaks for itself
“He wants to see what offers come along in the summer and I was a big boost for him to turn down Billericary to stay with us at least till the end of this season”
The next challenge for Driver is to try and persuade Blake to stay at Victory Road beyond the summer.
The striker has one year left on his Leiston deal and is aware of the fee that the club are asking for his services.
However, Driver believes that the striker’s loyalty means that there is a chance he could stay with the club.
He said “Matt is a very loyal lad and stayed at Norwich United for three seasons when again he got offered good money to move on.
“But he turned it down As he felt the timing was wrong.
“If no clubs come in for Matt then we will offer him the best possible deal to stay. We know it will be hard to keep hold of him as the amount of goals he has scored will attract clubs for his signature.
“He has a year left on his contract, he knows what the fee is we will be looking for and he has agreed that Leiston are being very fair in what we think he is worth”
Driver’s side currently sit in third in the Ryman Premier League, fourteen points behind leaders Bognor Regis Town.
The Rocks are next on the agenda for Leiston when they travel to West Sussex on Tuesday night.
Hot on the heels of that is a trip to Billericay Town and Driver believes that having their fate in their own hands is a big bonus for his side.
“There are some big games coming up for us, but every game in this league is a big game.
“This is the business end of the season and it’s nice that the play offs are in our own hands, we are not relying on other teams to drop points, we win our eight remaining games and we are in the play offs.
“I said before Christmas we didn’t have a big enough squad to win this league. There are bigger budgets with other clubs that allow them to have twenty players available for what is a long hard season at this level.
“If we make the play-offs it will be a massive achievement for our club. This is my first season managerging at this level and I have learnt a lot.
“I was doing our reserves and under 18s last year so I’m proud of what we have achieved to date, wherever we finish in the league it’s been a successful season and if we make the play-offs it will be massive”
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)