Wednesday 21st July 2004

Thamesmead can handle the pressure, insists Blade

PAUL BLADE, manager of Go Travel Kent League club Thamesmead Town, will be hoping a tough pre-season programme will prepare his squad for a promotion winning season, writes Stephen McCartney.
The Bayliss Avenue outfit began their pre-season preparation with a 1-1 draw against Fisher Athletic on Monday night, and Blade was happy with the five new faces on show.
Ray Powell, who played for Tonbridge Angels last season, signed for the club last night and joins Mark Dudley, who recently signed from Greenwich Borough as new additions to the club.
However, Beckenham Town duo David Weatherhead and Jason Clews and Greenwich Borough’s Kieren Collins, who netted the goal against Fisher Athletic, should put pen to paper and sign for the club this weekend, revealed the manager.
Blade, however, was pleased with his squad that drew with the ambitious Southern League Division One East club.
He said: “It was our first game and Fisher’s third, so it was a good test for us.  We had five new players starting, and Ray Powell signed last night, Mark Dudley signed a week ago, and hopefully the others will follow suit at the weekend.”
After missing out on promotion last season by only one point to promoted Cray Wanderers, Blade has lost defender Tony Russell to Ryman League Division One club Bromley and Wayne Barrett and Tony Gallgher to Kent League neighbours Slade Green.
Blade added: “We didn’t get promoted last season and lost Tony Russell to Bromley. 
“I had two players, Wayne Barrett and Tony Gallagher leave for personal reasons to Slade Green, so obviously I needed to add three players to what I had last season.
“So I needed to bring in experience and with these three players leaving it forced my hand to bring new ones in.
“At the moment the players have worked hard in pre-season, we started training on 28th June and it’s gone quite well.
“Our new players have a bit of experience and have played at this level and higher.  They are good physical players, which will add a new dimension to us with their pace and strength.”
One major blow to Thamesmead is the loss of influential right-wing back Marc Merridan, who goes in for an ankle operation on Thursday and will be out of action for 6-8 weeks.  Michael Power (damaged knee) and Barry Stewart (groin) are also causing a concern at present.
Blade, however, anticipates his club will have to handle the pressure, if they are to hold aloft the Go Travel Kent League championship at the end of this season..
Blade admitted Maidstone United, Whitstable Town, VCD Athletic, Herne Bay, Ramsgate and his own club will be challenging for honours, and everyone will have to wait to see if there are to be a surprise package waiting in the wings.
After beating Cray Wanderers 1-0 to land the Go Travel Kent League Cup last season this has whetted their appetite for more glory.
Blade admitted: “Finishing runners-up last season, obviously expectations are quite high for myself, and the club and we are looking to do better and win the league. 
“So a little bit of pressure on myself, the club and the players to keep our high standards.
“A few teams will be looking to turn ourselves over, the big sides are paying big money this year, and any club who will finish above us will obviously be in with a shout.”
With the new players coming into the club, they will bring competition within the squad, and Blade is looking to get off to a flying start once their season gets underway on Saturday 14th August when they entertain Lordswood at Bayliss Avenue.
Blade continued: “If we can get to a good start hopefully we will be there or there abouts come the end of the season.  The league looks stronger this year, so hopefully it will be as close this year as last season.”
Before the Kent League campaign commences, Thamesmead host Ryman League Division One newcomers Cray Wanderers in the Kent League Challenge Shield on Saturday 7th August.
Blade is looking forward to the game, and added: “We’ve got a good relationship with Cray and we are good friends with Jenko (Ian Jenkins, Cray manager).
“I used to play with Joe Francis (Cray assistant manager) at Charlton Athletic and Dartford.
“I am pleased they went up – they deserved it and we kept a good relationship going.  It’s nice to play them and they will be looking to beat us after we beat them in the Kent League Cup final last season.
“They will be stronger than last season, and it’s a big test and a good occasion for everyone.”
Before Thamesmead contemplate these fixtures, they face opposition from Witham Town at Bayliss Avenue on Saturday (24th July) before making the trip to Imperial Fields to take on Ryman League Division One outfit Tooting & Mitcham United on Tuesday 27th July.
They finish their pre-season programme with home games against Bromley (Saturday 31st July) and a young Gillingham side on Tuesday 3rd August.
Blade explained the reason why his side are playing away to Tooting & Mitcham.
He said: “We played them at home last season, and it was a good tight game, which was drawn.  They were quite impressed in what we offered them with the pitch, ground and our hospitality and Richard Caddett and Steve Jones said they would like to repeat the favour.  It’s going to be a good test for us.”
Send in your club's news to Stephen McCartney
Email:  stephen@mccartney2000.fsnet.co.uk
Telephone: 07979 418 360