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Borough want to keep climbing
Tommy Widdrington says improving on last year’s 12th-placed finish is Eastbourne Borough’s target.
Life at Priory Lane has not been easy for Widdrington since he took charge in February 2012.
He has overseen a huge overhaul of the squad – moving on a lot of club stalwarts that served former boss Garry Wilson so well – and has also had to contend with two notable budget cuts.
Borough narrowly avoided relegation the season before last and flirted with the drop again last year before a strong finish saw them climb to mid-table.
Widdrington now believes he has ‘his’ squad in place and is looking forward to the new Conference south campaign which begins away to Weston-super-Mare today.
Borough have not made mass changes this summer. Four players were released at the end of last season while top scorer Elliott Charles has turned down a new contract and signed for Dover, although Borough will be entitled to compensation as the player is under 24.
From last year’s squad Simon Johnson, Gary Hart, Sam Cole and Matt Aldred have all signed new deals while others like Darren Lok, who enjoyed a good breakthrough year last year, Chris Shephard, Ollie Rowe, Charlie Gorman and Adam Watts remain under contract.
Recruitment has been limited to experienced defender Ian Simpemba, Cambridge United goalkeeper Craig Ross who was on loan last season and a handful of youngsters with backgrounds in professional football such as one-time Southampton forward Tony Garrod and former Portsmouth reserve Lewis Tallack.
Expectations need to remain realistic but Widdrington insists his squad are in great shape going into the first game.
He said: “I have been pleased with the progression the lads have made with every game in pre-season. Apart from the Worthing pitch, we have played on some good surfaces against good, competitive sides.
“Our performance levels have improved and winning the games has been a boost for confidence.
“The fact I wanted to retain nine of last season’s squad will show you how pleased I was with how we finished last year and the fact they wanted to stay shows the togetherness we have had since Christmas.
“Added to that, Craig Ross and Ian Simpemba are good signings for this league.
“I understand people from outside looking in will say we haven’t got a hugely big squad but I have gone for quality rather than quantity.
“I will never say we will finish first, second or third but as long as we move the club forward again over the period of the season that for me would be a step in the right direction.
“After surviving the trap door the year before last and then coming 12th last season we will be looking to improve on that.”
Australian defender James Stinson, who spent time with Crawley Town in pre-season, will be added to the squad tomorrow providing international clearances comes through from his former club, Sunshine Coast.
Emmanuel Akokhia, who began his career at AFC Wimbledon, and former Albion youngster Elliott Levy have both been signed on non-contract terms but another trialist, former Dover defender Chris Sessegnon, has not been retained.
Hart and Rowe both miss the opener due to suspension.
Hart will be eligible for Tuesday’s match at home to Tonbridge Angels but Rowe will miss the first three games.
In: Ian Simpemba (Dover), Craig Ross (Cambridge United), Tony Garrod (Staines Town), Lewis Tallack (Nike Academy), James Stinson (Sunshine Coast), Elliott Levy (Albion), Emmanuel Akokhia (Harrow Borough).
Out: Elliott Charles (Dover), Ben Adelsbury (Bath City), Jamie Strong (Worthing), Jamie Smith, Anwar Uddin, Danny Potter.
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