Longlevens manager Craig Martin has praised his side’s dedication after his side returned to training, under social distancing measures at Saw Mills.
The Gloucester-based side returned to training since the 2019/20 season was suspended back in March, with Levens sat in 6th in the Hellenic Premier table with 11 league games left.
After the session Martin spoke to us about his squad, with over 20 players in attendance.
“It’s been a long time coming, especially with the season being cut short,” said Martin.
“The lads have been wanting to get together and today was our first opportunity to do something, with social distancing in place and the boys at the end of the session all look tired but still had 10 or so staying behind for shooting drills at the end which is great.
Incredibly we have had four groups, one with the keepers doing their thing, then a group of six for Tommy, Kacey and Darrell. So I try to leave it to them and that way I can focus on the behind the scenes issues and projects with Tim Hall – who has done a great job on the ground since the season was suspended,” Martin added.
The sessions saw coaches Tommy Callinan, Kacey Johnstone and Darrell Long man groups and put them to the test with a number of cardio and ballwork drills, whilst the goalkeepers were put through their paces by Matt Bickers and Martin has praised the impact the coaches have had on the squad development.
“Training sessions like this was a key reason why Mark [former manager Mark Moore] brought Tommy in, to do sessions like this and last season we thought we would get the next best thing to Tommy, which is Kacey.
Kacey is an absolute winner, having played with him on Sunday mornings I know what he is like and what he expects from the lads and I know that he knows how to get the best out of everyone.
Today I said to Tommy and Kacey that they can do what they want drill wise. We agreed to see how many of the lads turn up and obviously with social distancing in place we would split the guys up accordingly,” said Martin.
Amongst the returning players were Adam Wallace and Elliot Martin from the Reserve squad and whilst there were a few players missing due to other commitments, Martin told us how important keeping the experienced heads will be, especially to help bring through the young players at the club.
“Keeping all of the lads together after a great last season was important and whilst we are hoping to have additions when the season comes around we were able to bring in Elliot Martin and Adam Wallace from the Reserves squad, to mainly show them what to expect if and when they get a chance with the First Team.
For me as long as the experienced heads like Ed Smyllie and Shaun O’Connor stay on to then they will automatically drive on the younger lads and they will learn as they go, which is important for their development,” said Martin.
One change at the club is between the sticks, with goalkeeper Ash Wintle taking a break from football. But Martin has acted swiftly by bringing back former Slimbridge, Bishops Cleeve and Lydney Town goalkeeper Ollie Hall to the club for the season.
“Last season we had Kane [Winman] and Ash [Wintle] pushing each other and it worked superbly and as a keeper the one thing you don’t want is an easy ride. If you have an easy ride your mind goes, but when you have competition it raises your game,” Martin said.
“I’ve always wanted two goalkeepers at a minimum so with Adam doing so well with the Reserves I will be looking for him to come through, you know if there are midweek games and we can offer him some matchday experience then it benefits him.
Ollie was here before and knows the lads and Kane has been superb for us, he had a great run of games before his big injury away at Fairford last season but whenever I’ve asked Kane to play he has done and done a job so the shirt is his as it stands.
It is up to Ollie to guide him, push him and test him and that’s what we want, we want competition for places all over the pitch – but I did think that one position I was going to worry about was keepers so to get Ollie in is a massive bonus for me,” added the Longlevens boss.
One negative at the session was that returning midfielder Jay Kennedy had to leave the session early due to injury and we wish him a speedy recovery and hope it isn’t too serious.