Craig Priest reviews this week’s news from the One Call Stadium
Another week passes slowly by as pre-season draws agonisingly closer, and as with every week this close-season so far, it’s been one which hasn’t been short of news and talking points.
After a weekend of sending well wishing messages to the no departed Luke O’Neill, news of a replacement on Monday failed to come and the only thing to reflect on at Monday tea time was the fact that our pre-season schedule altered as our proposed trip to Worksop Town was cancelled no big loss really and as we’ll come to later on, the gap has been filled.
A day of no transfer activity on Monday was passed with a little giggle as it was revealed that the Stags players would be swapping the shin pads to cricket pads, taking on Mansfield & Pleasley CC in a 25 Over match on Sunday 8th July. When I was younger, before I found a love for all things football, my summers where spent with my dad playing and watching cricket. I was the scorer for a few teams in a bid to improve my awful maths skills, for some reason I stopped liking cricket and actually now pretty much detest it, however for one day only I might have to head down and watch the game, maybe do some broadcasting on it, I’ve always wondered if my football commentary skills could transfer to another sport. Of course it’s not unusual for football clubs to take on cricket clubs for open days etc, I remember back in the summer of 2008 when our then relegated players took to the cricket pitch, Stevie Dawson’s bowling is something nobody watching that day will never forget, the less said about Jason White’s fielding the better though!
Moving swiftly on, the rumour mill has been spinning the words ‘Marquee Signing’ over the past few weeks, the double swoop of Luton pair George Pilkington and Godfrey Poku on Tuesday saw that rumour become fact. 30 year old centre back George has been keeping Luton together for the past few seasons, skippering the side for the past two seasons, it’s the capture of him which is this summer’s ‘Marquee Signing’ so far, in my opinion George is one of the best defenders in the league and could easily be playing league football, getting his signature is a massive piece of business for the club and sends a clear message to the club that we mean business. When you look at the defence we have now, the sheer presence and experience will worry opposition, we will be very hard to break down next season. The defence is of course yet to be complete with the definite need for a left back and maybe another utility player as cover. Personally I’ve spoken to a few people about our defence and one name that doesn’t get mentioned is John Thompson, I think next season will be a massive one for him after the awful ride he went on last term. He will look at it as a new lease of life and approach it as if he’s just signed, working hard to get into the side and keep his place – I’ve a feeling he will come in and revert to the role he played as title winning skipper of Notts County at right back, with Luke Jones and new boy Pilkington providing the strength in the middle and a new, left footed quality left back completing the back four – what a defence that would be! When you take into consideration Ritchie Sutton and possibly Martin Riley in the mix as well, we are stronger than we have been at the back for a very long time.
The second player to join alongside Pilkington is Godfrey Poku, because he signed with Pilkington he’s kind of snuck under the radar and little as been said about him. The 21 year old began life in non-league football with St Albans City in 2009 before joining Luton in 2010, agreeing to join the hatters despite interest from football league clubs after trials with Reading, Leyton Orient and Southend United. Despite the move to Luton Godfrey found himself back out on loan, a month with the club he joined from, before a run in the Luton side and then last season, a very successful loan with Southport, who he helped to finish in 7th place, a season after their reprieve from relegation. Godfrey, who can be found on twitter for those interested, is a very good player who will be very similar to Anthony Howells style of play – this can only be described as a good thing right?
Strengthening the first team with experienced players is all well and good, however Paul Cox is also keen on the progression of home grown players, handing four youth teamers professional deals on Wednesday. Hit man Adam Somes, winger Joel Holland, defender Jobe Shaw and familiar face Scott Rogers were the ones to sign deals, having watched them over the past season in my role as youth team correspondent for the club I can say that all four deserve deals and have the ability to develop further into good players. Everyone knows what Adam Somes can do, he the one scoring for fun in the youth league last season, finishing with some 24 in all competitions, a feat which didn’t go unrecognised, making a first team appearance in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay at Fleetwood. Joel Holland is the one to have a hand in most of Adam’s goals, a quick left footed player who can beat players and get a cross into the dangerous areas. Jobe, who was skipper of the youth team last season, is a natural leader and reads the game very well for a young player, a very able player in the air and playing on the deck. As for Scott? Well I guess with all those Mansfield tattoos the gaffer had to sign him really! A great lad whose been a joy to work with, on the pitch for those who’ve not seen him, he’s a tough tackling no nonsense player whose range of passing is excellent – playing mainly as a defensive midfielder he does get forward now and then. I’m delighted not only for Scott knowing how much a deal means to him, but for all the lads who had an excellent season last term and deserve the opportunity to go out and develop further.
Along with the four young guns putting pen to paper, it was revealed today that goalkeeper Shane Redmond has agreed terms for another season, last season wasn’t the best for him with just one first team appearance at Kidderminster, however with the reserve team now ready to go, Shane will keep fit and undoubtedly be pushing for a first team slot.
The big news this week was that assistant manager Micky Moore has decided to move on, taking up his previous job as a college tutor along with a coaching role in part time football, with a young family on the way I can fully understand his reasons for moving on and providing security for his family. I’ve been privileged t speak to Micky on many occasion and watch him work on the training ground, his departure is a massive loss and I genuinely wish him all the best for the future. Stepping into his shoes is the perfect candidate, someone who loves the club, who loves football and whose passion and desire for success shines through into everything he does, step forward Adam Murray – agreeing to take on a player-assistant role. Again I’ve spent time with ‘Muz’ and I’ve full confidence that he will form an even stronger bond with Paul and as ever, strive to make our beloved club a successes. He may lack in managerial experience but I couldn’t care less, it doesn’t worry me – Adam’s character and philosophy is the perfect fit, I genuinely can’t think of a better person to take on the role of assistant manager. Paul Cox mentioned in his interview today that Muz was going to join the coaching step anyway, that opens the door for a new captain – my money would be on John Thompson or George Pilkington, however I daren’t rule out Adam not playing as much, he will fight for his place and, like Andy Todd, provide excellence when he does make the starting eleven.
One man I mentioned there was Andy Todd, this week he has also agreed to stay on in his role as player-coach, another fantastic piece of news.
Rounding things off this week I eluded to filling the gap in pre-season early on, it was announced earlier today that we will take on Blue Square North side Gainsborough Trinity on July 20th, 7.45pm kick off at the Northolme ground. Last season Trinity lost in the play-off final to Nuneaton and will provide a very stern test for us just a day after a trip to Shepshed Dynamo. The match will also see a few familiar faces up against their former club, Paul Connor, Ryan Williams, Jason White and Jon D’Layrea to name a few. I’m hoping to have news about coverage in the next week or so as I appreciate pre-season is just around the corner, to view the pre-season schedule and the latest squad list for the 2012-13 season, click here.
Well that’s it for this week, thanks for reading and as ever keep interacting on facebook and twitter.
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