After a season of consolidation last year, the aim for this season was to push for the play offs. My first issue would be strengthening the side. There was a lot of deadwood that needed moving on, and although I had a strong core of the team, that extra bit of quality was missing. Added to that, the threat of a takeover not only had me worrying for my job, but also meant that I would have a transfer embargo to negotiate over the summer.
As you would expect at this level, we didn’t recoup any money from player sales. A lot of the players released were fringe players last season, with most of them the wrong side of 30. Right back Lewis Lindsay was the one player I did have to think about releasing, but despite his decent potential, he wouldn’t get the football he needed and he had an annoying habit of reminding me about it.
The ins were a lot more eventful. I tried to get a lot of my business done early; I didn’t want to be left scrambling for players at the beginning of the season after the transfer embargo that would come with the rumoured takeover.
I spent my pre-season scouting all the youngsters released from Premier League and Championship clubs, and that resulted in 7 new signings. To replace the departing Nick Hutchings, two young keepers came in. 18 year old Emmanuel Idem joined the club from Aston Villa, with 24 year old Jonathan Miles joining from last season’s champions Ebbsfleet as his understudy.
In defence, Louis Hall was another recruit from Villa. Hall is an 18 year old left back with the potential to be a star Vanarama National defender. His high(ish) level of determination and potential means that I’ve made him our new Vice Captain. On the opposite side of the defence, Tyler Cordner, also 18, joined from Bournemouth.
Our raid from Dean Court hadn’t finished there, with centre midfielder Curtis Young, 19, coming in as our first choice Centre Midfielder (Support). Young would replace Theo Widdrington, who we had managed to loan for a second season from Portsmouth. James Granger, our first choice Ball Winning Midfielder/Centre Midfield (Defend) also renewed his year-long loan from Eastleigh.
Abdulai Bell-Baggie was our only winger of any real quality. Steve Devlin’s late season form had earned him another year with us, but he shouldn’t be any more than a squad player if we are looking for promotion. Former Cardiff youngster James Waite is a natural on both flanks, and offers a bit more quality than Devlin. 22 year old striker Joe Parker came in from Gloucester to back up Danny Clifton and Lewis Gill.
Then came the frustration of the next two months. A long drawn out takeover meant that we couldn’t bring in anyone else until late August, a few weeks after the season had begun. I only added two new players. Harvey Knibbs continued the transition of Poole becoming ‘Aston Villa B’, and 27 year old centre back Adam Bailey-Dennis added some much needed experience to our young team.
Knibbs’ 13 finishing is incredible for non-league football, and coupled with 13 pace and 13 acceleration he could make for a formidable striker, either as a a poacher or an advanced forward. Adam Bailey-Dennis, on the other hand, is just a giant. Standing at 194cm (roughly 6ft 4in), with 18 jumping reach and 16 strength means that nothing will go over the top of him, and 15 determination means that he is an excellent tutoring candidate for my other young centre backs. Obviously his 3 pace is not ideal, but playing a deeper line or playing a quick centre back on ‘cover’ should counteract this.
Overall I’m pretty happy with my squad overall. We have real strength and depth throughout the core of the team and have brought in a number of players who have the potential to play at a higher level. My only concern is my wingers, as having only three senior wingers in the squad could be a risk should injuries hit or if form declines.
The next update will track our progress through to November. Can we push for the play offs or am I expecting too much from my inexperienced side?