The White Stuff: Something feels right about Harrogate Town’s mix of youth and experience
Something just seems right at the CNG Stadium this season.
With the first ball set to be kicked in Simon Weaver’s sixth season at the club on Saturday, there is a quiet optimism that the team has clicked.
Of course, we cannot be sure. And it will only be over the next five weeks, that the true signs of whether the 2015/16 season can bring cheer to the new stand alongside Wetherby Road will come clear.
But, the business Town have done over the summer months seems to have slipped under the national radar.
The round holes that needed filling have had round pegs brought in. But there has not been waves and waves of new recruits, just simply clever business at the right time.
With five previous seasons under his belt, Simon sounds more refined to what he wants. Last season’s debacle has clearly been a steep learning curve for all at the club, and none more so than the boss himself.
Twelve months ago, swathes of players came through the gates at the CNG Stadium with first-class reputations for Conference North level.
We were all sucked into what was going to be – and perhaps the players were too.
This time, the business has been smart. Paul Thirlwell’s introduction into the midfield offers that gritty, experienced character that was so often found lacking at the club last season.
Not only does a player like that – with years of experience at professional level – offer a cool head at times of uncertainty, but he brings the best out of players around him.
Last year there was no replacement for the guile of Adam Bolder. And with Matt Heath leaving for Harrogate Railway, the vocal leaders on the pitch went.
In Danny Ellis, signed from Guiseley, and Thirlwell, Town have two leaders that the younger players, who prospered so well at the end of the season last year, can work around.
Andy McWilliams, too, provides a nous at left-back that left the club when Dave Merris joined Ossett Albion. Both styles are almost identical, and, like Merris,
McWilliams has every opportunity to become one of the consistent figures at the club over the next few years.
Clearly cruel injuries have played their part over the last two years, and a run of luck against them is needed for any sustained continuity of formation and line-up.
But now, there are like-for-like replacements across the pitch for when injuries are sustained.
Last season, there was a bag of all-sorts. One injury, and the plan changed. Two injuries, and the formation was in a muddle.
I’m excited to see the development of James Cadman, Jordan Thewlis and Jack Emmett over the next 12 months. All three have that spark in their play to raise bottoms off seats in the main stand.
The younger players took on the responsibility to take Town away from the relegation zone last season, as Simon’s big gamble paid off.
The boss will know he has to get it right this year, after the errors of 12 months ago. Not many clubs would have stuck by him for five years, especially after such a turbulent campaign. But, in his own words, there is a “freshness” about Town this season. The grass seems greener on the other side, and the boss has surrounded himself with more people in the dugout – with Mike Bligh, Lee Barraclough and Will Powell all providing new ideas to the set-up. To his credit, Weaver has never ducked away when the going has got tough. Answers have been found.
The challenge this year must focus on sustaining their form, and with one defeat, not to lose the next three or four.
Under Weaver, Town have been a form team. When hot, they’re can be unplayable, when they’re not, it’s a wretched spell of losses. As the saying goes, consistency is key. And with a smaller squad this time around, it seems the plan of action.
How will our teams get on in the 2015/16 campaign?
Email: [email protected]
Tweet: @Harrogate Sport