BRIAN HUGHES may be newly-married, refreshed after an 11-day honeymoon in Cyprus and still basking in the glory of guiding his Cirencester Town to promotion to the Southern Premier League as champions – but he is a far-from-happy manager.
Hughes had hoped to be going to war in a higher division next season with the same squad that won him the title, but he is now resigned to losing at least five first team regulars – Lee Smith, Steve Davies, Ellis Dunton, Joe Shepherd and James Mortimer-Jones.
“I detest this part of the season – it’s a cattle market,” bemoaned Hughes. “I still love August to May but it is this time of the year which will eventually drive me out of the game.”
Top scorer Lee Smith was the first to jump ship, backing out of an on-the-table deal from Chippenham Town to sign instead for Hungerford Town.
While Bluebirds boss Mark Collier missed out on Smith he has tempted away immensely promising defender Ellis Dunton, who has been connected with Ciren Town since the age of four.
Smith’s wing partner, Steve Davies is switching to Mangotsfield United and is therefore staying in the Southern League Div One South & West, as is up and coming striker Joe Shepherd who looks certain to join Swindon Supermarine.
Meanwhile, Hughes’ invaluable midfield lieutenant James Mortimer-Jones is thought to be contemplating retirement after finishing his career on a high with a champions’ medal.
“I was pretty sure Lee would be moving on," said Hughes. "Davo often struggled to make training because of work commitments and he told me early on that the extra travelling required in the Southern Premier made it a non-starter.
“Joe Shepherd seems to have set his heart on joining Supermarine, and if Jonah goes ahead and decides to quit he is going to take a lot of replacing.
“The surprise was Ellis who has been with the club for so long. You can never stop managers talking to your players and I tried and failed to convince him to stay.
“I’ve been doing this job for 11 years and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it or panic.
“Every year the chairman simply asks me to put together a competitive side and I will always back my judgment to piece together a good team. I would not do it if I thought if it was only a question of survival."
While his playing staff is gradually being eroded, Hughes has at least settled on his new backroom team following the departure of Warren Evans to manage Tuffley Rovers.
As expected Hughes and his No.2 Kevin Willetts will be joined by former Town striker Jody Bevan as well as Tommy Callinan, with whom the manager once played at Cheltenham Town.
“I’ve known Tommy from our Cheltenham Town days and have wanted to work with him for some time," said Hughes.
“He and I, along with Wilbur and Jody will get together this week and identify our list of targets.
“The players return for pre-season training on June 24 and I know we are behind a lot of clubs in making plans but everyone is talking to everyone at the moment and I often think the best time to go shopping is two weeks before the start of the season.”