After the highs of last season Chopbacks prepare for fresh battles ahead

The departure of Neil Sutcliffe as both club Chairman and first team Manager The Chopbacks have had to make a number of changes to the management setup before the start of the new football season writes Tony Cook.

Tony Cook, Neil Sutcliffe and Sam Cook enjoying the club’s success at the end of last season.

First was to install a new first team manager and Sam Cook accepted that role. He needed to rebuild his coaching team and swiftly set about getting back club favourite Luke O’Donnell to make sure there was the necessary level of fitness within the squad.

Joining the coaching team is Jon Harrigan as goalkeeper coach, something which Ben Tate will have been pleased to hear as he’s had been waiting nearly two years to finally get someone to coach him individually.

With the coaching team in place, it was all now about getting the players ready for the new season.

The club had a couple of new faces join us for training in July. Will Rist and Tyler Hughes both showed promise and managed to make an appearance during the first couple of preseason friendlies.

Tyler made just two appearances before breaking his leg in two places during a friendly with West St Leonards cutting short any hopes of him fighting for a place within the Sout Coast Athletico dressing room.

Later on in preseason three more players joined the squad for training, Syd Moffat-Bailey and Jay Beaumont both making appearances in friendlies and most recently Dan Aldous who has yet to make a match appearance.

The majority of last season’s squad chose to sign for the 2019/20 season with the likes of Ben Tate, Brad Owens, Byron Nichol, Charley Adams, Connor Smith, Dayle McGurk, Georgie McDonagh, Harry Jackson, Jack Bloomfield, Lee Finnigan, Luke Darvill and Ryan Fuller staying on for another season.

Of course not all players choose to stay on every year and this year saw a couple move on to pastures new.

Firstly was Mike Hawley who decided to sign for Westfield Reserves, the club will always remember his debut hattrick against Parkfield in 2018.

Secondly Ryan Penney chose to switch to Northiam 75 Reserves, he leaves on the high of scoring the Chopbacks third goal in the Cup Final last season and we wish him well for the 2019/20 season.

Lastly the club’s top goalscorer last season, Connor Easton decided he needed a new challenge and moved to Westfield Reserves. Connor was a big character and leaves big shoes to fill, no doubt Lee Finnigan will be keen to prove that he has the ability to do that this season and beyond.

The friendlies list this preseason was a very tough one designed to test both the Chopbacks’ ability and mental resolve.

First was a 5-0 victory against Tackleway F.C. with goals by Connor Easton (2), Ryan FullerBrad Owens and Lee Finnigan.

Second was a narrow last minute 3-2 loss against West St Leonards with goals from Jack Bloomfield and Dayle McGurk, it was during this nmatch that Tyler Hughes broke two bones in his leg during a challenge.

Third was a tough 4-2 defeat against Westfield First Team, the players held their own for 70 minutes with goals from Brad Owens and Dayle McGurk before finally succumbing to defeat with Ben Tate sustaining a painful injury at the end of the game.

Fourth was a forgettable 7-3 defeat in Essex just two days later against Ramsey and Mistley. With injuries from the previous game and no replacement keeper the Chopbacks suffered from both tiredness and lack of numbers, something that the management team will make sure does not happen next preseason, goals in the game were scored by Brad OwensRyan Fuller and there was an own goal.

Lastly was a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Northiam 75, still without a keeper Sam Cook found himself playing in goal and the Chopbacks struggled to play the way they can play for the whole 90 minutes. Brad Owens got the only Chopbacks goal and it’s fair to say the hairdryer treatment came out in the dressing room afterwards.

The squad will now regroup and assess what they have all learnt during a tough preseason, Luke O’Donnell will be making sure that everyone is fit and ready for tomorrow’s opening league fixture against Wittersham in ESFL Division 2.

The group of players know exactly what is expected from them and will be keen to put a disappointing set of preseason results behind them and getting back to winning ways when it matters.

This weekend’s game will be a 3pm kick off at Bexhill College 3G pitch, the players will all be hungry to build on last seasons success as they look for a possible third successive promotion and more silverware.

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