Garry Hill has put the hours in this week and was pleased to land Ayo Obileye’s signature after the central defender impressed in the season just gone at Maidenhead United. And the Fleet manager knows this is just the start of a long two months before the 2019/20 campaign kicks-off.
“It’s nice to add a new player to the squad today,” Hill told the club website. “I do believe that when players see those of experience at National League level signing for the football club, that can be a big benefit, an enticement for other players to join.”
‘Selling’ that enticement is all part and parcel of the challenge the Fleet manager faces this summer and he’s fully aware of the assurances he needs to give to potential new recruits.
“You’ve got to sell the club to people again,” he conceded. “I think anybody who knows me in football in any capacity knows that I’m down the line, I’m straight-talking and I’ll say it honestly. I think selling the club to potential players is a massive part of our recruitment this summer. But I do believe there’s value in me straight talking, the same way Dave Archer is with me, that if everything off the pitch in those other areas moves in the direction we’re hoping it will, then we want to bring the club and the supporters with us and get everyone behind us again.”
Hill has been at the Kuflink Stadium working through targets alongside managing director Dave Archer this week and while he hopes to do a lot more business in the coming weeks, he knows the full squad picture may take a little longer.
“We’re working through June and July,” he said. “I’m not overly concerned by getting everyone we need in by 29th June, that’s not a problem. We don’t play the first league game until August 3rd. It’s been a long day today but a worthwhile one and there’s not many people at the club seeing a summer holiday. Me and Dave Archer are working every hour under the sun to get the football club the stability it needs and the direction it needs to be able to function as intended.”
Obileye may be the first new signing of the forthcoming season but Hill still has six players under contract in Nathan Ashmore, Ebou Adams, Jack King, Sean Shields, Corey Whitely and Lawrie Wilson.
“Those six players are the same as anyone else,” he said. “I will always take a view if anybody enquires, if anybody shows interest for a transfer or a loan, but right now they’re Ebbsfleet United football players after that opportunity [to move on] having been there for a month. I felt it was very important to get out in the open that everyone has had an opportunity to determine their future.
“It’s obviously been well reported how I’ve given all the players the month of May to have that opportunity. That gives me that start now going forward where I can progress with the squad of players who are still at the present time at the football club and work that into the new financial construction we’ve got going into August.”
Three further players – Danny Kedwell, Jack Payne and Myles Weston – were offered new contracts but have not taken up those options as yet.
“We sent the offers by letter,” Hill said, “but they were on much-reduced terms of course, there’s no secret about that, that was always part of us going forward in this new direction.”
With the first pre-season friendly a month away, Hill may use the opportunity to field trialists, something Fleet fans have by and large not experienced for five or six years, but that’s a decision he will make at a later date.
“A lot depends on what comes out over the next few weeks in respect of players that we sign, what targets we miss out on, the numbers we’ve got” he said. “And that will be another point at which we need to take stock of where we are.”
Fleet’s pre-season schedule currently numbers five matches and Hill is not likely to add considerably to that total.
“I think the maximum number of games I’ll be having is six or thereabouts,” he said. “We’re not going to have a massive squad straight off, I don’t want to burden ourselves with too many games too quickly and all of a sudden players and numbers are down a little bit and you’re asking too many players to play too many games too early and having injuries.
“But overall, in the big picture we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been tough but I think all of us at the club have shown loyalty and the hard work we’ve put in by battling and working through some difficult times together.”