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Story posted: Tuesday, 26th June 2018

Three More Commit
Gresley FC can announce a further trio of signings to the developing squad ahead of the new season.
Experienced defenders Mark Branch and Matt Roome have re-signed for the club after agreeing terms together with midfielder Dexter Morris Clarke.

Manager Gary Norton commenting on the news said: “Mark had indicated at the end of last season that he would be interested in staying at the club depending on what the situation was on and off the pitch and following a meeting with him last week he agreed to sign for us again.

"I was hugely impressed with him during the final few games of last season and really wanted him to be part of things again once I decided to take up the club's offer to return as permanent manager. We are delighted he’s agreed to sign.”

The former Hednesford, Chasetown and Romulus and Hednesford player adds more key experience to Norton’s squad and can play in a number of positions but will be eying up his favored left back slot for the forthcoming coming campaign. The experienced 32 year old who has played well over 600 non-league games hit the national headlines back in the 2007-8 season when he scored the equaliser for Chasetown in 1-1 draw against Port Vale in an FA Cup 2nd round game which took the Stoke based side to a replay. Chasetown went on to win the replay and famously lost 3-1 to Cardiff City after taking the lead in the 3rd round in a game Branch also played in.

Norton added: “Mark has many attributes I like in a player and he fits the bill of the type of personality we wanted to help rebuild the squad. He has huge experience, versatility and a highly professional attitude. What struck me most when we met up last week was how hungry he is for football despite his vast experience. I’m really looking forward to working with him in the coming weeks and months.”

Norton has also managed to retain long serving Matt Roome who has been at the club since 2012. Roome had looked to have played his last game for the club against Frickley towards the end of last season. It was post that game that saw the resignation of former manager Damion Beckford-Quailey followed by the majority of the squad deciding to leave the club at the same time. Record appearance holder Jamie Barrett and the long serving Roome were amongst those players who decided not to play in the remaining three games of the season following Beckford-Quailey’s decision to resign but Norton has gone on record at a recent fans forum to defend the decision made by the squad at the time.

He added: “No-one at the time knew the reasons behind the decision made by the players not to complete the final games of the season. Whether that decision was right or wrong when I when I sat down and listened to things from Matt and Jamie’s perspective I fully understood their reasons and appreciated their decision. Both, at the time, actually wanted to end their Gresley careers at that point and once I was aware of the reasons behind their decision I honestly could see why they perhaps wanted to do so.

"Jamie had a tough time from a couple of supporters when he came to the fans forum but the 99% of supporters backed him and trust the fact that after being with the club through thick and thin his reasons must have been very good ones and have left it at that and I’m sure it will be the same for Matt Roome. Last season is all in the past now and I won’t discuss the reasoning they shared with me but hope supporters trust me when I say they were fully justified in my view. It’s all about looking forward now and things both on and off the pitch are coming along nicely and there is a huge buzz again around the place”

Norton continued: “We are really please that Matt has made his decision to give it another go next season at Gresley. He’s only 28 but has massive experience at this level and being a local lad living a mile or so from Gresley was someone we really wanted to keep at the club.

"For some reason he’d stopped enjoying his football over the last couple of seasons but after sitting down with him a couple of times over recent weeks we managed to persuade him to give it another go. We have given him assurances that if he’s not enjoying his football next season he would be free to go and play his football elsewhere but we are confident that will not be the case. We wanted Matt to give the club another chance to see if he can start to enjoy his football once more at Gresley and are very pleased he has agreed sign".

Finally the latest addition to Norton’s squad is energetic midfielder Dexter Morris Clarke. Morris Clarke was also with the club last season but injured in the latter part of the season. First team coach Jamie Barrett is a huge fan of the Birmingham based midfielder and heavily influenced the decision to try and retain Dexter’s services for another season.

Commenting on the clubs latest signing Barrett said: “We are very happy that we have secured Dexter’s services despite interest from other clubs. Dexter is a player we hold in high regard and someone I have seen develop of the last couple of seasons with his combative, energetic and determined performances which are always appreciated by the fans. He was one of the stand out performers from last season and will be a key player for the upcoming campaign. At 22 he is at a great age to keep improving and will only benefit from playing with our recent experienced signings.”

These latest additions bring the total to 9 players signed, 10 if assistant manager Carl Slater is added, 2 above the target of 8 experienced players Norton wanted to get signed onto forms ahead of the preseason training starting this weekend. With the club essentially starting from scratch given the events at the end of last season he wanted to ensure the squad had a core of players who were experienced at playing Evo-Stik football before adding some of the younger talent from the local area he has been eyeing up. Commenting on progress so far the manager said: ”it’s been a hard few weeks meeting, speaking to players over the phone and arranging meetings in person with them to persuade them to join us. Carl and Jamie have been a massive help over the last few week too and between us we are very pleased that our hard work has resulted in us hitting our target for getting players to commit".

"Most sides in the league will have decided at the end of last season who they wanted to retain in their squads ensuring they have a core of players and some degree of continuity to work going into preseason with but essentially we were starting from a blank sheet of paper in terms of us trying to rebuild the team and we are pleased so far where we are. All of the players who have signed for us with the exception of Dexter are experience players at this standard from within a 15 mile radius of the club and this gives us a great nucleus of a competitive squad to work with.

"I’m really excited as we have a number of local youngsters and trialists who have agreed to come down to pre-season training as well as some of our own young talent who did well when called upon last season we will taking a close look at over the next few weeks in training and games.

"We do also have two or three more players we have been speaking to over the last few weeks we are still trying to get over the line but overall we are delighted with our progress to date and are ahead of where we thought we would be at this stage”.
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
10 AFC Wulfunians 6 0 9
11 Racing Club Warwick 6 -1 8
12 Stourport Swifts 6 -1 8
13 Romulus 5 1 7
14 Coventry Sphinx 5 -5 7
15 Lye Town 8 -5 5
16 Haughmond 6 -8 5
17 Selston 6 -6 4
18 Highgate United 6 -2 3
19 Gresley 6 -7 2
20 Boldmere St Michaels 5 -9 1

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Sat, 21st Sep 2019, 3.00pm (Home)
Moldwell Plastics League Cup Round 1
Tue, 24th Sep 2019, 7.45pm (Home)
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Sat, 28th Sep 2019, 3.00pm (Home)
Highgate United
Sat, 5th Oct 2019, 3.00pm (Home)
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