As Swindon Supermarine head into their opening league fixture this Saturday in the Southern League Premier Division South, manager Lee Spalding has some tough decisions to make regarding his starting line up, writes Nick Taylor.
Marine face Tiverton Town at The Webb’s Wood Stadium this weekend and, after a successful pre-season in which the club faced the likes of Swindon Town, Forest Green Rovers and Wealdstone, Spalding now has to decide on his squad of 16 from the large number of players he has had at his disposal during the past few weeks.
Spalding has secured the services of all of last season’s successful promotion squad, with the exception of Callum Parsons, who has now signed for Southern League Division One South newboys Thatcham Town.
In addition, he has added highly experienced striker Stuart Fleetwood (ex-Luton Town, Hereford Utd, Forest Green Rovers) and swashbuckling forward Conor McDonagh (ex-Oxford City, Banbury Utd, Kidlington) to his offensive options, creative midfielder Luke Williams (ex-Weladstone, Hungerford Town, Hayes & Yeading) marauding full back Dan Williamson (ex-Winchester City, Marlow, Hungerford Town) and towering centre back Baboucarr Jarra (ex-Thatcham Town, Windsor, Beaconsfield)
Also at the disposal of Spalding is Marine club legend Dave Bampton, who has overcome a serious back injury, worked his way back to fitness after having not played for several seasons and has impressed in pre-season.
Speaking to Your Sport Swindon this week, Spalding is relishing the challenges of the new season and the decisions he will inevitably have to make, saying: “We’ve got a big squad and that’s really important for the season ahead that we’re not going to win anything with 16 players, that’s going to be impossible.
“So, we are going to need a 20-22-man squad. It’s not going to be easy keeping players happy all the time, it’s not just going to be about the starting 11, it’s about the squad.
“It’s so important that we’re all pushing towards the same thing. Our goal is to be as competitive as we can. There’s still a couple of positions up for grabs, it’s just a case of seeing how people train this week.”
Opponents Tiverton Town have spent the past season in the top flight of the Southern League, like Marine, having gained promotion via the play-offs and had a steady first season under the guidance of vastly experienced manager Martyn Rodgers.
“You’ll know what you’re going to get out of them,” added Spalding. “They will put us under pressure from set-pieces, corners, throw-ins, free-kicks. If we don’t compete we’ll come unstuck. Saturday will be a day when we have to roll our sleeves up, it will be a really good test.
“I’m really looking forward to it. We have a really good group and I think we’ll be competitive every game we go into and I want to make sure we’ve got a great opportunity of winning it. I just want to go game by game and try and win as many matches as we can, being as hard to beat as possible. I think we could do well.”
Unavailable for Marine this weekend is Connor Thompson, Joe Shepherd and Antonio Gerrish, all of whom are on holiday, while Jon Else has work commitments and Baboucarr Jarra remains injured. Dave Bampton is also a doubt and will likely require a late fitness test.