After two years in the Vanarama South, we really need to at least reach the play-offs this season. For the first time, the media predict that we will finish in the top 10, so with the right additions a top 5 finish is possible. I was relatively happy with my squad from last season, but I just needed to strengthen the core of the team to push on that extra bit to get promoted, whilst getting rid of some deadwood.
I tried to keep the squad roughly the same as last year, only getting rid of the players that weren’t going to feature at all. With my change in formation, Steve Devlin, who didn’t really feature last season, was not going to get a chance. Last season Devlin made 21 appearances last season, 12 of which were starts, but did not fit in to my narrow 4-3-3 formation, and at 32, it wasn’t worth keeping him around.
Ryan Case also left the club. The right back was unhappy with his lack of involvement last season, having only featured 12 times. With Tyler Cordner and Owen Brown also in his position, it made sense to let him go and not risk him upsetting the rest of the squad.
The third exit was youth player Ray Ingram. I hadn’t planned on releasing him, but the youngster missed training four times after going out the night before. I warned him the first time he missed training, and fined him two weeks wages (a whole £10!) for the next two times. By the fourth time, all within a couple of weeks, I bit the bullet and paid the £20 to release him from his contract. Saying that, he only had 2 star potential, so I really didn’t care that he was gone.
With no transfer budget, I would again have to mainly rely on the Premier League academy rejects to strengthen my team. The change in formation also meant that I needed to stock up on Centre Midfielders, as well as adding a Striker or two.
At the back, we brought in Left Back Dominic Thompson from Arsenal. The 18 year old has about the same ability as my current Left Back Louis Hall, so should provide great competition for that position, something that we did not have last year. His main strength is his 14 pace, meaning he will hopefully be able to bomb up and down the wing, providing us with width.
The midfield has seen the most change, with four new additions and one returning face. Our first recruit was Tonbridge’s Charlie Owens. The former Tottenham trainee prefers to play as a Ball-Winning Midfielder, but he can also be used as a Centre Midfielder on Defend. Another player who fits that role is Connor Gallagher, who joins from Chelsea. Gallagher can play as my Centre Midfielder on Defend, but his 13 work rate, 12 leadership, 11 teamwork and 12 longshots make him an ideal Support Midfielder.
The next addition was Welsh Under-19 international Robbie Burton. Like Dominic Thompson, the youngster joins from Arsenal, and he will be the link between the Midfield and the Strikers. Burton plays as a Centre Midfielder on Attack, but can also play as both a Advanced Playmaker or a Deep-Lying Playmaker. Lewis Bryon also comes in, joining from Crystal Palace. The Defensive Midfielder will provide cover for Charlie Owens, whilst also being competent at both Centre Back and Right Back, making him the ideal non-league substitute. The final addition in Midfield was a renewal of Theo Widdrington’s loan from Portsmouth. It is unlikely that he will feature as heavily as he has done in the last two seasons, but his 75 appearances so far for Poole adds some experience as well as more strength and depth in Midfield.
The final addition of the summer is James Daly, a 18 year old Striker from Crystal Palace. Daly is a natural as both a Poacher and an Advanced Forward, whilst also being competent on either wing or as an Attacking Midfielder, should we need to change formation. Daly will probably feature as my Advanced Forward with his 14 pace and 14 acceleration, but his 10 finishing needs to improve.
I did try to bring in another Striker, Matthew Patterson. The 28 year old scored 16 in 31 for Havant & Waterlooville last season, and would add some much needed experience in to my young side, but we didn’t have enough wage budget remaining to add him to the squad.
What’s To Come?
We open the season away to the newly promoted title favourites Dulwich Hamlet. We have to wait for our first game at Victoria Park, as we host last season’s runners up East Thurrock in the third game of the season. The next update will be in November, where we will be looking to match last season’s strong start.