MIKE Hyem has signed for Huntingdon Town in a move that will send a message to the 20 other teams in the Premier Division of the United Counties League that Ricky Marheineke’s side will be serious title challengers this season.

Hyem, the 23-year-old former St Neots Town midfielder, was convinced by the Huntingdon manager to leave Godmanchester Rovers, where he has played for the last two seasons, and join his Huntingdon team rather than St Ives Town, who were also after the player's signature for their first season in the Southern League.

"Rick sold the club the best out of all the managers I was speaking to," said Hyem, when he put pen to paper at Jubilee Park on Monday evening. "It's a decision that I have dragged out. To leave Godmanchester where I do like the football and all the fans was a hard decision to make but this is a challenge I want to take."

Huntingdon finished fourth in the UCL Premier last season after winning promotion from Division One as champions at the end of Marheineke's first full season in charge. The 32-year-old manager has a growing reputation in the game and this summer he has made some excellent additions to his already strong squad, including defender Mark Cox and midfielder Pat Bexfield.

But it is the signing of Hyem that will raise a few eyebrows in Huntingdonshire football - the midfielder was brilliant for Godmanchester last season when the club finished fifth in the Eastern Counties League - and St Ives Town's managers Jez Hall and Warren Everdell were also keen on making him their player after signing his former Goddy team-mate Jason King.

"We know what Mike is capable of and we are looking forward to him joining our group of players and trying to get the best out of him," said Marheineke.

"We have only lost one player and we have signed three and the quality of the squad has gone up. We needed a player that could create in the middle of the park which is why I went after Mike - I think he is the perfect player to fit into that position in our team. I think he is the final piece in our jigsaw and I am delighted."

Hyem, who said his work schedule would have made signing for a Southern League side - St Ives, for example - a daunting prospect, added: "The way that Huntingdon's team is looking, I think it is going to be the strongest locally."

Hyem is confident he is leaving Godmanchester and the club's joint managers Nev Nania and David Hurst on good terms. "They will respect my decision hopefully and all the players know I love them," he said.

Whether they will love him when the two teams meet in the UCL this season remains to be seen. "Those will be must-win games for me now," he said, "to prove I made the right decision."