Big Kick-Off Preview – Stones face up to the challenge
Wealdstone kick off the new Ryman Premier season this Saturday at Hastings United with a reshaped squad determined to go one better than last season’s promotion push that only just came off the rails due to a ridiculously punishing four games a week schedule at the tail end.
With at least seven new players signing up during a summer of unusually high transfer activity , Gordon Bartlett made his intentions clear early on that he is not going to accept another near miss and that the time has come to deliver.
Experience in the form of prolific striker Scott Fitzgerald and defender Wes Parker coupled with young players such as midfielder Kurtney Brooks have excited the Stones faithful. The many Friendly results have reflected the changes and reshaping that has been required but performances have gradually improved and the squad is ready to face the many challenges of a long and hard season ahead.
But the hugely experienced GB will also know that the Stones will face some well known and very tough clubs and some new faces that appear to have got the cheque book out big style – despite the financially challenged external environment. In that sense the Ryman League level of football seems to be no different to the Premier League and some clubs always appear to be prepared to chase the dream with a massive budget.
Sutton United under achieved last season and will no doubt be up there as one of the favourites for the title and Kingstonian will be an undoubted threat following the Borehamwood play off debacle. Tonbridge Angels also looked to have added some decent players to their squad to build on the momentum of their late charge up the table last term.
Amongst the new boys, Croydon Athletic appears to have spent the most and on players of high quality: Tom Hutchinson and former Southampton midfielder Jermaine Wright have been signed by their manager Tim O’Shea adding to his already expensively assembled promotion winning squad.
Last season proved once again, however, that organisation, work ethic and clever management still count for a great deal in a league that requires a physical, battling, presence and no little skill to make headway – Aveley’s success last term surely proved that on a relatively small budget.
Stones have certainly built the foundations for another progressive season and we wish all the players, first team, reserves and youth every success.