THE South West Peninsula League kicks-off on Friday night with the four Post area teams getting their campaigns underway in the next few days.
In the Premier Division, Gary Jeffery’s Launceston, who finished 11th last term, are boosted by a number of new signings including goalkeeper Cory Harvey and striker Liam Prynn, and the return of former favourites Chris Head and Lance Easton, welcome Plymouth Parkway to Pennygillam on Saturday (3pm) before heading to Camelford for next Wednesday night’s local derby (7.30pm).
The Camels have the weekend off and will look to get their season underway with a positive result in front of a big crowd against one of their arch-rivals.
The summer has been relatively quiet down at Trefrew Park after their 14th-placed finish, with just three additions, but most importantly they have managed to keep hold of the six members of last year’s Cornwall under 18s squad and their chief creator, Bobby Hopkinson.
In Division One West, there have been plenty of changes at Bude Town and Holsworthy, who both endured difficult campaigns in the lower echelons of the table.
Ryan Leverton has taken over as player/coach from Nick Jeffery at Bude and will have to make do without both Billy and Harry Hopcroft who have signed for Wadebridge Town.
But despite losing a major proportion of their goals, Leverton is looking to bring on the youngsters and make sure they’re comfortably away from danger after finishing third-bottom in 2016/17.
Leverton said: “We struggled for long periods of last year but after Christmas once we re-signed Billy from Bodmin and a couple of others, we lost just two games and if we’d kept the same squad as we ended the season with I’d be hopeful for a push for the top-six.
“However, with us losing both Billy and Harry we’re losing nearly 50 goals so we know we’ve got to replace them.
“We’ve also got a couple of long-term injuries with Ryan Willshire and Jordan White who’ve both got ankle ligament injuries while Chris Hill is just coming back to fitness.
“Three or four players have also said they’re not going to play which is never ideal but we’ve still got a really good nucleus to the squad.
“We’ve got a really solid back five which has plenty of Peninsula League experience and with Wes Pugh, Chris when he’s fit and Tommy Statton we look strong, but we’re going to have to bed the youngsters on the wings and up front and hopefully they’ll flourish.
“We’ve brought in three new players in the shape of Hayden White from the second team, Joe Buckingham who has moved to the area and forward Alex Harrison, while I have quite a few players are yet to decide whether they want to come and play Peninsula League football. If we can get some of them in and the rest of the squad stay fit then we should enjoy a solid season.
“The rest of the club is doing well with the youth section and ladies team moving into a higher league while the clubhouse has been given a refurbishment so it’s a really good time to be involved with Bude Town.”
Across the A3072 there have also been plenty of changes at Holsworthy.
Player/manager Liam Dart has brought in a raft of new players although key personnel have either left or will miss the early stages of the season.
The Magpies floundered after a good start to finish 15th in the 18 team division and Dart wants an improvement.
Dart said: “Last season was a disappointment despite getting to the quarter-final of the league cup and semi-final of the Torridge Cup.
“Our season was disrupted by injuries to key players, suspensions and we lost our top-goalscorer Tudor Placinta for six games over Christmas and during that period we only scored one goal, which was telling. We also conceded far too many goals during the season and that has to improve (76 in 34 league games).”
“During the summer I have tried to freshen things up. We have a number of new signings in the shape of Tom Robinson, Adam Bullen, Dan Wilson, Elliot Brant, Lee Gardiner, Ryan Chadwick and Connor Nash while Elliot Collins has returned after being out for a year which is a big boost; plus we have young players coming up from our successful reserve team, most notably Joel Greening, Jay Thomas and Max MacDonald who have played a number of pre-season games.
“All the players are stepping up from the lower leagues but have the ability for this level and are good characters and all are local lads, which is always important.”
“However, we’ve unfortunately lost Nathan Bonney who over my time has been a key player and a consistent for us. He has moved to Wadebridge who have made a number of high-profile signings.
“Dave Andrew has also departed for family reasons but hopefully we will see him back at Upcott Field, Last year’s keeper Josh Curtis is also unavailable because of work for a while but will be back in September as will Tudor who is away getting married back in Romania.”
Pre-season has been encouraging for the Magpies as they’ve played a wide variety of opposition, with differing results, but Dart is satisfied with his charges, ahead of Plymstock United’s visit on Wednesday night (7.30pm ko).
Dart continued: “We have had a good pre-season in terms of some tough games but it’s allowed the new players to settle into the group and the way we want to play and seeing what standards we expect. Are aim is to improve on last year and have a good season.“