The first team squad had their initial 2019/20 training get-together last night (2nd July) and we caught up with manager Andy Leese to get his take on the squad and pre-season plans thus far. Andy said “It feels like we haven’t really been away! Myself, Mario and the management team have been very busy, as Chairman Paul Reed has mentioned in his close-season updates, revamping the squad, working on bringing in new players, and planning the pre-season schedule of matches and training.
“In addition, we have been working with the Under 23 and senior youth management teams to ensure that we are co-ordinated in our thoughts and plans as we look to bring the players of the future through the club in a structured fashion. As has been already announced, we have lost some players from last season’s first team squad. In most cases these were departures we could not have prevented under any circumstances. Every year, at every level, players get offered what they feel are better deals that suit their personal circumstances, and a club like ours simply cannot compete to get them to stay. I’ve seen it happen every year that I have been in the game. The marketplace for players is increasingly challenging, especially at this time of year, as they keep their options open, sometimes until the last available moment and, as I say rival clubs, even in the same division, are offering packages that we simply cannot match. The league has plenty of clubs geographically local to us now, all vying for similar players which makes it very challenging when you are negotiating.
“We have, however, retained a good nucleus of last season’s squad as we look to build on last year. Ryan Blackman is back fit and joined in last night which is great news. Marc Weatherstone and Billy Bricknell are contracted to us as the Chairman confirmed recently, and I can add that Dan Rumens, Lewis Taaffe, Sam Youngs, Josh Davidson, Junior Mubiayi and Kezie Ibe will all be with us next year. We are still talking to a few more of last year’s group, and I hope to be able to confirm some more good news on that front next week. One player we will not be able to tempt back, though, is Sam Chaney, who has decided that his work commitments will prevent him committing to play football this term. It is disappointing for Sam as well as the rest of us, but I am sure we will see him in a Town shirt if things change; you never know.
“On the new arrivals front we have been able to add to the squad with some very exciting and capable players. Jon Muleba will join Nathan Macdonald in committing to the club for a second spell. I am delighted to get both these former Town guys back in. We had tried to tempt Jon back last season, and I don’t need to tell Town fans anything about the qualities of both individuals.
“We have also signed James Potton, a player I know well. James is an exciting attacking wide or midfield player who gets his share of goals, and I am sure fans will like his style. Along with James is another player we know well, Scott Thomas. Scott is a talented defensive midfielder who will also give us added quality on the ball. Please welcome the lads to the club in due course as they look to settle in. We are continuing discussions with other players we’d like to bring in. Some talks have been delayed by holidays, and some by players themselves considering other options. I hope we will have more good news over the weekend, and by the Society summer meeting next Thursday (11th July).”
New signing profiles:
Jon Muleba: 23-year-old right back Jon started his career in the youth ranks at Chelsea before joining AFC Bournemouth’s Under 21 squad. He had loan spells with Poole Town, Gosport Borough and Bishop's Stortford before joining Folkestone Invicta in July 2016. Shortly afterwards he moved to Enfield Town, making 45 appearances, before following manager Bradley Quinton to Braintree Town in the summer of 2017. After playing a key role in the Iron’s 2017-18 promotion campaign, he moved on to Kingstonian in February 2019 before committing to Town this summer.
James Potton: Formerly with Royston Town, Hemel Hempstead Town and Chesham United, 29-year-old winger James was originally released by Watford at U16 level, and then had a spell with Hemel Hempstead reserves before going off to university. Upon his return he joined Chesham United, playing 186 games in a four-year stint, scoring 55 goals. He moved back to Hemel in 2014 and subsequently spent several years at Conference South level, including netting for the Tudors in a 2014-15 FA Cup first round 3-1 exit at Bury, before a move to Royston in June 2017.
Scott Thomas: Ex-Hemel Hempstead Town, Chesham United, Boreham Wood and St Albans City, 29-year-old midfielder Scott made the short move from Boreham Wood, where he won promotion to the National League, to St Albans in August 2015. He had subsequently been on a dual registration arrangement with Royston for a spell and, like James Potton, he featured in the Crows team that overcame Town 2-0 in the FA Trophy in October 2017. He also appeared as a defender during his St Albans days.