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Story posted: Sunday, 14th August 2005

Pre-season News
Manager Gary Norton says his jigsaw is almost complete after adding Central Defender Tony Brown and midfielders Carl Slater and Carl Adams to his Gresley Rovers squad.
Brown was with Ilkeston Town last term but spent much of the season recovering from a cruciate knee injury. He started his career in the youth side at the New Manor ground before moving to Arnold Town and then Eastwood Town. He returned to Ilkeston under John McGinley in 2003 making a number of impressive performances before picking up his injury. Brown joins in the same week fellow central defender Matt Millns put pen to paper on a deal that see's him join the club from Eastwood Town.

Norton also confirmed that midfielder Carl Slater has returned to the club after a string of impressive performances during preseason. Slater left the Moat ground in October last year looking for a fresh challenge and regular first team football but had indicated he would like to be considered for a return to the club and his performances to date indicate he is a strong candidate for a starting midfield role in the side. On the return of Slater the Moat Boss commented, "Carl has done really well in the three games he's played and is really up for the challenge. Him rejoining us will give us great competition in that midfield area and he is really up for the challenge ahead. Norton also revealed that he had also recruited trialist Carl Adams. The 22-year-old former Sheffield United trainee has agreed terms although Norton has told his new signing that he may have to be patient and wait for his chance.

Norton added. Mick Curry and I targeted to get a quality squad of around 18 in place for the new season. It's vital if we are going to do well this season that we have all the attributes of quality, experience and versatility as well as strength in depth in abundance and we are both happy that we are quite close to doing that. The main problem is going to be trying to keep everyone in the squad happy. Most of our players could walk into many other sides at this level but we have tried to emphasise to the squad the importance of remaining patient. Come August 20th we can only name a squad of 14 and that means that 4 or 5 are going to miss out for the 1st few games at least. We have tried to drill into the lads the importance of us having competition for places and having patience. An 18 man squad may sound plenty but you only need a few injuries, suspensions or players unavailable due to work commitments and then you are left looking to see who's doing well in the reserve's. Despite us asking the players for patience I guess it's inevitable that we will lose one or two once the season starts if people find themselves on the fringes and it will take a little time for the squad to settle. With that in mind we will of course always be on the lookout to strengthen further and we will recruit but only if the right player comes available for the right wages and we feel it will improve squad."

On the work over the summer Norton said: "This preseason has been an incredibly difficult one for a number of reasons. We have had to rebuild the squad and bring in several new faces and as such have had quite a bit of gelling to do. The other frustration has been getting everyone together at the same time to look at them in training and games but that has proved almost impossible mainly because of holidays, work commitments and injuries. It's the same for most teams at this level of non-league and there's not a great deal you can do about it other than grin and bear it."

The summer has been a busy one at the Moat Ground in terms of comings and goings and will result in a much changed side when the team lines up at Fleetwood on August 20th. Players leaving the club started with the loss of Goal keeper Dale Belford at the end of last season to Sutton Coldfield. The news was soon followed by coach Steve Hinks' decision to also make the move to the Royals. Utility player Andy Marlowe decided to concentrate on his coaching commitments and join Atherstone to be nearer his home. This was closely followed by Jamie Barrett's decision to move to give in to a tempting offer from Conference North outfit Hednesford Town. Midfield partner Ashley Dodd then announced he was moving to Jersey and therefore would be unavailable for the new season. Norton then received the blow that Jamie Hood would be out until at least Christmas after undergoing surgery but would then be joining Liam Hebbard as another of last season's squad joining the former Rovers contingent at Sutton. Although somewhat ambitious Norton had hoped to retain the services of defender Steve Farmer who had impressed in a 14 match loan spell from Nuneaton Borough at the end of last season but the player decided on a move to Halesowen Town instead. In another ambitious moved, the club almost landed the services of Barry Wooley from Worcester City but the former Moat favourite agreed a new contract to keep him at St Georges lane for another season.

Pre season training started well but then Rovers were dealt another blow with the news that two further players would not be lining up come August 20th. Influential defender and Captain Matt Smith rocked the Moatmen with the news he was going to retire due to changes to his work commitments and 24 hours earlier Defender Nial Hudson informed the club he was moving back to Ireland on a permanent basis due to a change in personal circumstances.

On players leaving the club Norton commented. "Both Dale and Andy had indicated before the end of last season their intentions and once Steve Hinks had moved to Sutton we were resigned to maybe losing a player or two to them. Its disappointing to lose Jamie but the reality is that we would have had to replace him anyway as he's out injured till Christmas and Liam needed a fresh challenge after a stop start time with us. There's not a lot you can do about losing players who move away from the area so in the cases of Ashley and Nial it was just a case of taking it on the chin and dealing with it. The biggest blows were losing Jamie Barrett and Matt Smith but I'd like to think the players we have replaced them with will mean we are just as strong in those areas."

This seasons squad seems to be taking shape nicely with Norton convinced that an influx of experience and quality added to remaining players from last season will help to improve on the disappointing end to the last campaign. Striker Paul Edwards agreed a new deal at the end of last season and the club received a huge boost during the summer with the news that top scorer Aaron O'Conner had agreed a new deal to remain at the club despite temptations to leave and Gary White also agreed to stay after turning down at move to Sutton Coldfield. Several other key members of last season's squad have also turned down moves elsewhere to remain at the Moat ground and form part of this seasons squad. Andy Simpson, Nathan Tate, Chris Gray, Micky Lyons, Emeka Ejiofor, Chris White and Paul Wardle have all agreed terms and will start the season with the Moatmen.

On the new player front experienced utility player David Holmes was one of the club's first signings of the summer from Conference North Club Alfreton Town and looks an excellent replacement for Liam Hebbard on the right or upfront. Holmes was soon joined by former team mate and goalkeeper Gavin Saxby as Belford replacement after he had impressed during a 3 month loan spell last season at the Moat Ground. Another experienced signing arrived in the form of full back Allan Davies from Ilkeston Town. The former Burton Albion and Worcester City defender has proved to be an inspired signing after several impressive performances in preseason and meant that the later loss of Nial Hudson had immediately been offset. Nick Ghislanzoni was announced as Jamie Barrett's replacement in midfield but after just two appearances in pre season and concerns over the player's level of commitment Norton decided to cut his losses mainly due to the showing of Nicky Carter in central midfield. The tough tackling left footed Carter has been a revelation during pre season games and looks to be an ideal replacement for the departed Barrett.

22 year old Eastwood town Defender Matt Millns put in some very impressive performances and looked to be a more than adequate start in the bid to replace Hood and Smith providing the clubs could agree a fee for the player. Due to being contracted to Eastwood last term the Badgers are entitled compensation under the Bosman ruling and after the clubs failed to agree a nominal fee Millns eventually signed a deal with Rovers and the fee will be set by and FA tribunal.

Another experienced campaigner in Tony Hemmings looks to be a useful addition to the Rovers squad after impressing in several positions during the summer friendly games. Norton hopes that Hemmings experience and versatility could prove invaluable to the squad for the coming campaign. He said: "Even though Tony is 37 he has come through preseason in flying colours and looks very fit. He's picked up a couple of niggly injuries during the friendless which is a slight concern but he gives us a great option in several areas."

Norton looks to have completed his squad with the weekends additions of defender Tony Brown, and midfielders Carl Slater and Carl Adams although he indicated that there was still the potential for one more signing before the big kick off.

Gresley Rovers Squad for the 2005-2006 campaign.
1 Gary White
2 Andy Simpson
3 Nathan Tate
4 Chris Gray
5 Emeka Ejiofor
6 Micky Lyons
7 Aaron O'Connor
8 Chris White
9 Paul Edwards
10 Paul Wardle

11 Gavin Saxby (GK)
12 Matthew Millns
13 Tony Brown
14 Allan Davies
15 David Holmes
16 Nicky Carter
17 Carl Slater
18 Carl Adams
19 Tony Hemmings

Dale Belford (Sutton Coldfield Town)
Jamie Hood (Sutton Coldfield Town)
Matt Smith (Retired)
Nial Hudson (Moved to Ireland)
Liam Hebbard (Sutton Coldfield Town)
Jamie Barret (Hednesford Town)
Ashley Dodd (Moved to Jersey)
Andy Marlow (Atherstone)
Steve Farmer (Halesowen)
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
10 Highgate United 29 -3 38
11 South Normanton Athletic 26 0 37
12 Worcester City 26 11 36
13 AFC Wulfunians 31 -6 36
14 Coventry Sphinx 25 -19 34
15 Tividale 23 -4 27
16 Haughmond 29 -29 26
17 Racing Club Warwick 24 -29 24
18 Lye Town 28 -31 18
19 Gresley 26 -22 16
20 Selston 25 -38 13

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