Cirencester Town gear up for opening pre-season friendly
BRIAN HUGHES expects his Cirencester Town team to be chasing shadows when they begin their pre-season campaign with the visit of Forest Green Rovers on Tuesday night.
Hughes has tried desperately to keep the core of the side that was relegated from the Southern Premier League last season, while Blue Square Bet Premier FGR boss Dave Hockaday has brought in seven new faces (five of them strikers) thanks to the deep pockets of millionaire chairman Dale Vince.
Hughes had a sneak preview of Football League-chasing FGR in training at their Royal Agricultural College base last week and was impressed by what he saw. “They only came back in training slightly before us but they are full-time players and I know we will be chasing them for much of the game next week,” said Hughes.
“Having said that, we put in a couple of hard sessions ourselves last week when there were 39 bodies at training, albeit a lot of them kids from the development side.”
Hockaday is unlikely to risk all of his first teamers at the Corinium Stadium with a friendly at home to stronger opposition in Wycombe Wanderers 24 hours later.
He does, however, have a wealth of young talent available including some highly rated first-season pros and the likes of Saul Williams (ex-Spurs) and triallist Ethan Moore (ex-Aston Villa) who could get a game. Hughes now knows he will this season have to do without first-team regulars Zak Westlake and Jon Else, who have joined the exodus to fellow Southern League Div 1 South and West rivals North Leigh, where they will team up with other Ciren old boys Wayne Turk, Mitch Bryant and Ben Reardon.
“I can’t handcuff players and it seems the Swindon-based lads have all gone to North Leigh for what I understand is stupid money,” said Hughes.
“And work commitments have encouraged keeper Mike Hedges to join his local team at Carterton.”
Hughes was, however, delighted to welcome back some old faces at training like Matt Bath, Chris Thompson, Matt Sysum and Richard Mansell.
“Tommo is as fit as a butcher’s dog and that is a real credit to him after being out of the game for a while, and Sys is back to his old enthusiastic self after his serious knee injury.
One former player who will be returning sooner than expected is midfielder Nathan Davies.
Cirencester have drawn Nathan’s new club Merthyr Town in a Preliminary Round of the FA Cup home tie on Saturday, August 25.
The winners will travel to either Cinderford Town or Abingdon Town/Fairford Town in the First Round Qualifying.
In the FA Carlsberg Trophy, Town have been drawn at home to Guildford City of the Southern League Div 1 Central in a Preliminary Round match due to be played on Saturday, September 15.
The winners of that match will then play away at the winners of the Preliminary Round tie between Mangotsfield United and Shortwood United in the First Round Qualifying.
“We were disappointed with our early exits from the cups last season and home draws will help us to do better this time around,” said Hughes.
Meanwhile, the Cirencester Town Development Team are under new management and will drop down a level play this season in the Uhlsport Hellenic League Div 2 West.
Former Ciren Academy graduate Clive Messenger takes over as boss from Swindon Supermarine-bound Andy Minturn and he will be assisted by Gavin Jones.