Football: Slimbridge look to build on mixed first season in Western League

Gazette Series: Leon Sterling   GSR931V11 (5927931) Leon Sterling GSR931V11 (5927931)

SLIMBRIDGE manager Leon Sterling is hoping persuade the majority of his players to stay at Wisloe Road next season.

After a tough start to their first season in the Toolstation Western League Premier Division, where the demands of a new league were combined with loss of some experienced players from the side, the Swans finished 16th.

Sterling said: "The lads are enjoying their football again, we’ve got a great team spirit, and we’ve got players here who are proud to represent Slimbridge Football Club.

"Pre-season training will be here before we know it, and I’m looking forward to continuing to build the side and keep the club moving forward.

"At the start of the season, we had a very young team – our greatly experienced players such as Marv Roberts and Tom Speers were no longer around, and their leadership on the pitch for the young lads was greatly missed.

"We also lost Will Wellon and Dan Robinson during the season, which added to the rebuilding job we had to do.

"For a while at the start of the season we looked out of our depth. The low point was when we found ourselves at the bottom of the league in November.

"I spoke to lads, and, naturally at that point, they were low in confidence. But I knew that the signs were there that we had something to build on, and we worked hard, and were honest, and gradually we began to turn the corner as a team.

"The new league was leap into the unknown and a big learning curve for everyone – myself, the lads playing, everyone at the club. I didn’t put any pressure on the lads on what we wanted to achieve for the season for that reason."

The rapid turnover of players, especially early in the season as the Swans sought to establish a settled side, meant that Sterling ended up playing more games than he had planned for at the start of the campaign, and that brought an additional dimension to the demands on him and assistant Freddy Ward on matchdays.

"It’s always difficult when both myself and Freddy are playing, because then you’re having to make your manger’s decisions while you’re on the pitch, rather than viewing the game from the dugout.

"There were times when I left Freddy out of the side because I felt I needed to be on the pitch more than he did, and he could then run things from the sidelines."

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