PAUL COLLICUTT will be working with a new backroom team as he looks to bolster his Evesham United squad for what he believes will one of the toughest league campaigns ever.
Having bid farewell to assistants Mark Boyland and Richard Smith, manager Collicutt has appointed former Cinderford Town duo Gerry Oldham and Mark Lockwood to his backroom staff.
The trio put the players through their paces in their first pre-season training session on Tuesday as 22 players including half a dozen trialists featured.
Collicutt paid a debt of thanks to Boyland and Smith, who had helped steer the Robins to Southern League Division One South & West runners-up in 2015 and then just miss out on the play-offs last term.
A mixture of work commitments and family meant they have decided to step down.
“Mark and Richard have done a great job in the last two-and-a-half seasons but unfortunately, because of their jobs and the travelling and family issues, they felt they couldn’t put in the commitment,” said Collicutt. “I fully understand their reasons.
“However, I’m delighted to have Gerry and Mark working alongside me. They are both local, they’re both from Cheltenham and they obviously had a fantastic time with Cinderford with (manager) John Brough, winning the league last season.”
After the furore over the past month following their successful appeal against an enforced move to the Northern Premier League, Collicutt is delighted to be able to concentrate on preparing for the new season in Southern League South & West.
Skipper Sysum commits
Captain Matt Sysum has handed the Robins a timely boost by confirming he will be staying at the Jubilee Stadium despite interest from several rival clubs.
Centre half Sysum has been a key figure in the past two seasons, making 45 appearances last term and netting 13 goals.
“In the past two seasons, we have played 84 league games and we’ve kept 42 clean sheets – that speaks volumes about how the lads have gone about their business. As skipper, Matt has had a key role,” said Collicutt.
Ten players have committed themselves to Evesham – clubs cannot register players until July 1 – and Collicutt will be looking for another nine or ten to give Evesham’s squad plenty of strength in depth.
The priority in his summer business will be to boost the striking department but inevitably top quality strikers usually come with a bigger wage and Collicutt needs to work to a budget.
With phoenix clubs Hereford and Salisbury joining the South & West Division, plus fellow promotion winners Barnstaple Town also likely to be promotion contenders, Collicutt has no doubts there will be plenty of quality throughout the league.
“I’ve got ten or 11 players committed so far and hopefully within the next week or so I will finalise the rest of the squad so I’ve got 19 or 20 players,” said the manager.
“We did OK last season but we need to strengthen the squad, we need to create good healthy competition for places. We will all need to raise our performances.”
Evesham begin their pre-season friendlies next week with two matches in two days. On Thursday they entertain Forest Green Rovers, who were pipped for a place in the Football League last season and now have former Birmingham City midfielder and ex-Tamworth, Kettering and Darlington boss Mark Cooper in charge.
Evesham then they head to Midland League Division One neighbours Pershore Town next Friday.
The Robins have added two more friendlies to their programme, with a home clash against Littleton on Tuesday, July 26 followed by the visit of Stourbridge on Saturday, July 30.