By Matt Badcock and Joshua Peck
GLEN GOLBY reckons Barking made their best summer signing in June – bringing in Justin Gardner as joint-manager!
The former Aveley boss joined the Blues’ management team following their Essex Senior League title triumph under Golby and Steve Willis last season.
Willis is concentrating on playing in the Bostik North this season and Golby says Gardner has already helped the club in a big way.
“We always knew we had to bring someone else in to help because Steve wants to get himself fit and play this year, so we were weighing up a few options,” Golby said. “We both know Justin and when the opportunity came up we got him on board.
“All of a sudden the players we were talking to were more interested in coming. His contacts are second to none, he’s an established manager, and I think – although a lot of players know me and Steve because we’ve played – when we got Justin on board, players maybe thought we stand more of a chance.
“That’s been good because we’ve been able to get players we didn’t think we’d be able to. We’re slowly getting to a squad we feel capable of keeping us up in the Bostik League.”
Golby says expectations for life back in the Isthmian Leagues are realistic. “The chairman Rob O’Brien said Barking have waited 11 years to get out of the Essex Senior League and back into this league – he’s more than happy if we survive and then we reassess it next pre-season,” Golby said.
“Rob and (vice chairman) Mick O’Shea have been working hard for the last few years, trying to get the ground up to scratch and putting the foundations in place – me and Steve took over from them as managers and we have managed to get the club to the next level on the field.”
DEAN GREYGOOSE wants his side to keep putting Mildenhall Town on the Non-League map as they prepare for their first ever season at Step 4.
The Hall start their new adventure in the Bostik North away at Heybridge Swifts after landing the Eastern Counties League title last season.
Former Kettering and AFC Sudbury stopper Greygoose watched his side lead the Step 5 league practically all season.
And while he knows the step up is going to be tough, he wants his side to keep playing attractive football.
“I love the club,” Greygoose said.
“I think we’ve put the club on the map with the whole thing and going up. In pre-season we’ve played some great football, it’s exciting. We don’t get involved in nil-nils! The last time we drew 0-0 was two years ago.
“We’re well organised but I want to entertain fans. I want people to spend their eight quid and enjoy it.
“You’re not seeing go-nowhere football or players just playing for the money. Players here know if they’re not playing well they won’t get in the team. A 16-year-old here has as much chance to play in the first team as a 36-year-old ex-pro.
“There’s a great atmosphere at the club. The players talk to fans after the games – I do too win, lose or draw. A couple of times I’ve taken a bit of stick and that’s right – they pay their money and it’s their team.
“We just try to do something that pro clubs can’t do anymore and have the players chat with the supporters over a beer. They feel part of the club. I was lucky to play in pro football when you could talk to the fans and the fans were still part of it.
“I just think there are some really good footballers and really good games in Non-League football.”
Although Greygoose admits he’s had to make more changes to his squad this summer, he’s excited with the improvements he’s added – and hopes that includes former Cambridge United and Luton Town striker Danny Crow.
“He’s come in and straightaway bought into what we’re doing so we’re hoping to get something sorted,” Greygoose said. “He’s been to one or two training sessions and played two games – I’ve been very impressed with him.
“He’ll bring a bit of experience. We’ve signed three 18/19-year-olds, who are very good players, but you need a balance with experience.”
HERTFORD TOWN chairman Peter Sinclair believes the delay in finding out where the club would be this season hasn’t affected their preparations as the Blues prepare for life in Step 4.
London Colney beat Hertford to the Spartan League Premier Division title, but following Colney’s annual meeting they voted to decline promotion which Hertford accepted at the beginning of June.
Hertford now take up a place in Bostik North and Gavin Kelsey’s side will travel to Brentwood Town in the opening weekend. And Sinclair admits there was a sense of disbelief when the side were given the chance to make the step up.
He told The NLP: “It was quite a shock, in as much as we didn’t have the points per game ratio that topped the charts. We thought that even if London Colney didn’t go up, they would jiggle the leagues about. As it transpired it works out well for us.
“We’ve strengthened the squad and don’t feel like that month where we thought we would be in Step 5 has hindered us at all.
“We’ve had good results in the past against Step 4 sides and the side hasn’t altered much over the last couple of years.
“We should still be competitive. I’d be quite happy with mid-table in the first season. I’m not looking for miracles.”
Hertford last competed in Step 4 15 years ago, and Sinclair believes the club can be competitive at the higher level again – on and off the field.
He added: “We get good crowds anyway. We finished with an average of 251. If we can get that again I’ll be happy, because obviously we’ve had to put price of admission up, but it’s all very exciting.
“It’s our first season back in the Ryman for 15 years, but we’ve always been set up as a Step 4 club.
“We’ll have to spend some money now to get it up to the next grade just in case we do finish in the top six, but it’s good to see the club progressing.”