08:00AM, Thursday 09 July 2020
Maidenhead United boss Alan Devonshire has had to get used to squad rebuilds over the past few summers, as players move on for bigger opportunities or a bigger pay day.
He’s repeatedly had to freshen up his squad and wheel and deal to bring in new players capable of keeping the club in the National League.
It’s a testament to his skills as a manager that he’s so far been able to do this.
However, he’s never had to do it during a global pandemic, with lockdown and social distancing restrictions still in place and with great uncertainty over when – or even if – the new campaign can get underway.
This week the club confirmed that eight players would be moving on, including last season’s top scorer Danny Whitehall and home grown fans’ favourite Josh Kelly.
Joe Ellul and Shamir Fenelon, who both impressed in their single seasons for the club and James Akintunde, a faithful servant for the Magpies over the past few seasons, are also on the list. The others are goalkeeper Chris Dunn, defender Freddie Grant and midfielder/defender Aron Davies.
None of the departures have come as a surprise to Devonshire, although he’d have liked some of them to stay and said the club tried hard over the past season to get Kelly to sign a new contract at the club.
It gives him and his son, chief scout Lee Devonshire, a tricky rebuild in the coming weeks, but they’ve managed to pull it off before. After the Magpies first season in the National League they had arguably a tougher rebuild when Sean Marks, Harry Pritchard, Sam Barratt, Jake Goodman and Max Kilman all left for pastures new.
“It is what it is,” Devonshire says stoically.
“It’s something we’ve had to deal with over the years and we’ll start rebuilding and see which players we can bring in.
“There weren’t any real surprises. I knew most of them would be going. The ones that I released obviously and those who’ve decided to go, it was always going to happen.
“We’ve been talking about a new contract with Josh for the last two years but his family didn’t want him to sign it, so he was always going to leave. That’s his and his family’s decision. It was always going to happen.
“It didn’t matter what we said and we tried to do the best we could (to keep him). We bid but he was always moving on.”
Devonshire said he expects to be in a position to announce a couple of new signings in the coming weeks but it’s a tricky situation with players waiting to see what’s going to happen with the new season before choosing to commit their future to a club.
“We’re really busy, me and the boy (Lee Devonshire), at the moment,” he said. “We’re talking to agents and players, but we’re going to take our time and make sure we bring in the right players.
“It’s hard because people want to wait, but listen, it is what it is.
“All we can do is do what we’re doing at the moment and hopefully we’ll have a couple of signings in the next week or so.
“When we’re in the new ground (at Braywick Park) I think we’ll be a different proposition and we’ll be looking to move on.
“When that happens, we’ll look at things again but I’d like to think we’d be in a position to give players longer contracts.”
Plenty of agents have been in touch to offer up their players’ services but getting the right ones will be crucial to the club’s hopes of staying in the division. Last season was another close call. No one can say what would have happened in the final nine league matches – and the Magpies have pulled off some pretty impressive runs when the chips looked to be down.
But the club was on a downward spiral when the season was prematurely ended in mid-March and looked set for relegation after five defeats on the spin. The league’s points-per-game calculation – and thankfully the side’s form earlier in the campaign – saw them skip back above luckless Ebbsfleet United into fourth from bottom and survive by a whisker.
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