After a couple of quiet days following the End of Season Awards, our man Ryan Butler has put together a series of posts highlighting his players to watch over the course of the 2022/23 season, with this post being the first of three.
The three points will see Butler cast his eyes over the best coming out of the Cheltenham Youth Floodlit U18s League, the Gloucestershire County Women’s Football League and in today’s post, the Southern and Hellenic Leagues.
Six players are on Butler’s radar in each post and below are the first players he will be keeping an eye on this season.
*Club’s are subject to change during the summer*
Oli Barnes (Brimscombe & Thrupp)
Barnes has set himself set up for a great run in the 2022/23 season. After joining Brimscombe during the 2019/20 season he has finally managed to complete a full season and with 23 starts out of his 34 appearances for the Lilywhites, he has become a crucial part of Sam Prior’s side.
There were rumours during the season that he was attracting interest from the Southern League and when you watch him it is easy to see why. Direct, creative and given the chance very handy in front of goal. He is the kind of player you want in the same side as the likes of Harlie Price, Jack Smith and Ollie Pitt – who are probably ore natural in front of goal. But Barnes is a player who can do both, one of the first I thought about when doing this post.
Ethan Dunbar (Longlevens/Slimbridge)
The first name on the list when planning this and anyone who followed Severn Sport during the 2021/22 season will know just how high we rate Dunbar.
Severn Sport’s Breakthrough Player of the Season and runner up in the overall Player of the Season category and I can tell you he came very close to winning both and I wouldn’t have bat an eyelid in doing so.
Dunbar made 43 appearances this season, scoring 19 goals in the process and that is considering he missed the last couple of months of the season with injury. That is scary. This young man is one of, if not, THE most exciting prospect we have in Gloucestershire. I expect him to play for Slimbridge this season and I also expect him to take the Southern League by storm.
Fin Byrnes (Shortwood United)
I really like Fin Byrnes. Ever since seeing him Captain of the original Slimbridge U18s side from a few seasons ago I have watched his career closely.
From moving to Shortwood United from Taverners and a brief spell back at Slimbridge in their Reserves side, Byrnes has shown himself to not just be a great little player in the middle of the park, but a great leader on the pitch.
I was delighted to see Byrnes pick up awards at the end of the season for Shortwood, collecting both the Supporters’ and Players’ Player of the Season. 38 appearances at a decent level like Hellenic One and he could be the catalyst for a much improved season for the Wood.
Jacob Geddes (Tuffley Rovers)
After winning the inaugural Jamie Hyett Award in the 2019/20 season’s Severn Sport End of Season Awards the 2021/22 season didn’t all go to plan for Geddes.
From a personal point of view it did. 37 appearances, being given the Captain’s armband for a good portion of those games due to Macaulay Herbert missing most of the season with a shoulder injury and he had stint with Evesham United on a dual registration.
However from a team point of view he was part of a Tuffley side who flirted with relegation for nearly three quarters of the season and an under-achieving Evesham United side. However, what this season has done has given Geddes a platform to learn and build on his game – which will help him.
At this point I don’t know if he is staying at Tuffley or whether he will be on the move, but wherever he plays next season he will be a better defender following the 2021/22 season.
Danny Gudger (Fairford Town)
This one may raise a few eyebrows, but for me Danny Gudger could be one to watch this season. After a couple of seasons plagued by lockdowns and multiple injuries and setbacks, Gudger had a full season last term and chalked up 39 appearances.
Yes you may look at that and say that he only scored 8 goals in those fixtures, but after going so long without consistent football on the scale he was given last season, it will put him in with a shot of a great season this campaign.
I expect Fairford to be better as a whole and if they can get the consistency out of players like Gudger that they are capable of then Jamie Reid will be very happy.
Levi Irving (Cirencester Town)
When I look at the Southern League players there are number of players with points to prove but then you have Levi Irving.
20 years old and making 30 Southern League appearances in a very good Cirencester Town side last season tells you 1) just how highly a man like John Brough rates him and 2) just how good he is.
With Cirencester moving into a new division, the Southern League Division One Central Division, Irving has a chance – along with his teammates – to go over there and make an impact and I honestly back him to do so.
Quick, agile, good on the ball and getting better off the ball, Irving is becoming a very handy player and if his progression continues at the rate it has done in the last couple of seasons then he will go further up the pyramid.
Check back during the week for Butler’s Players to Watch in both the Cheltenham Youth Floodlit League and Gloucestershire County Women’s Football League