After a busy few weeks of League and Cup action, it’s timefor an update from the men’s camp on the new faces in the squad and on ourinjury situation.
The new lads
Regular fans will have seen a number of new players in theteam over the past few weeks, as Darren Freeman attempted to plug the holesleft by injuries and suspensions.
As Darren explains: “We have a lot of trialists in at the club,who we don’t mention. We get a lot of CVs, we go through a lot of video footage,and then we decide which players we want to come and train with us.
“In addition, I have someone who goes out and watchesplayers for me – someone I trust to recommend players.”
It’s on the strength of such trials and recommendations thatyou’ve seen players such as midfielders Dan Darbyshire, Wilson Chingoka and RamoneCassidy-Sinclair in the team over the past few weeks. Each of those players impressedDarren enough in training to earn first-team berths, with former QPR player Darbyshirebecoming a regular face in the first XI since making his debut at KingsLangley.
“We’ve had a substantial number of injuries, and with thenumber of FA Cup replays and the new suspension rulings [two yellow cards inCup games is enough to trigger a suspension], we’ve got ourselves cover,”explains Darren. “As long as it comes within the budget, I feel the club needsmore strength in depth.”
It’s the centre-back position that has seen the most changesin recent weeks, with Frankie Chappell seemingly playing alongside a newpartner in every game. With Stacey Freeman away with work commitments, LloydCotton suffering an illness and Alex Malins still finding his way back from along-term ankle injury, Darren has again been forced to find new faces.
Thomas Day made his debut in the victory at Wingate andfollowed that up with a goal in the narrow defeat to Worthing. “I Knew aboutTom three weeks ago,” says Darren. “I kept an eye on the situation andeventually Jamie [Howell] and Danny [Bloor] at Eastbourne suggested we took Tomon dual-reg.”
Alas, Tom was cup-tied for Saturday’s trip to Bath, leadingDarren to sign on Joe Russell as cover. “Joe’s been on trial with us and donewell, and I thought he did well when he stepped in on Saturday,” the gaffersaid.
So what of that injury list as long as one of Ross Standen’sarms? Well, things are looking up.
Luke Blewden has recovered from his groin strain and HarryReed is on the mend after a couple of weeks out with concussion. “Harry’sinjury has taken its toll on the lad,” said Darren. “We felt he wasn’t quiteright for Bath, but he came through 90 minutes with the 23s on Monday.”
Lloyd Cotton is on the mend after his illness and should berejoining training this week, while fellow centre-back Stacey Freeman is backfrom his work commitments abroad.
Alex Malins is also back in the fold, having had severalsetbacks on the recovery from his year-long ankle injury. “Alex Malins has comeback three or four times but broken down,” said Darren. “He had his firsttraining session on Monday, which is great news.”
Still, Darren won’t have his full squad to pick from at theweekend – although for the best possible reason. Jonte Smith is once again withBermuda, having scored against Aruba for his country last month.
Investing in youth
The injuries and absentees have also given our young playersa taste of life in the first team squad. Sam Karl played the full 90 minutes againstKings Langley at the Dripping Pan, while under-18s players such as Dylan Gifford,Ross Barclay, Alfie Headland and Harrison Parker have all been in the squad forgames over the past few weeks.
“I want to encourage the youth to get through into the firstteam,” said Darren. “I watch most 23s and 18s game. Steve Eke and Dale Hurleyare doing a great job with the youth teams.”
Still, Darren won’t rush the boys into the first team, giventhe physical demands of the Bostik Premier. “The physicality of the oppositionis a big difference compared to the Bositk South,” said Darren.
“I gave the young lads weight training programmes to do overthe summer and they need to keep getting down the gym and doing their bit. At thepresent time, I feel the physicality of the league is taking a toll on the seniorboys, so we will take our time with the younger lads.”