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PREVIEW: Shortwood boss swoops for new recruits ahead of season opener

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Disrupted by the pandemic, Shortwood boss Mat Blythe insists his evolving side is now in rude health ahead of the new Hellenic League season.

With the last two seasons curtailed by Covid 19, Blythe is relishing his side’s opening league game at FC Stratford this Saturday, boosted by nine new signings.

Blythe, who has a new backroom staff with coaching duo Josh Loveridge and Neil Long, has assembled a squad that is expected to challenge at the sharp end of a revamped Hellenic League Division One West.

“We felt the squad needed strengthening and we’ve managed to bring in nine new signings over pre-season, including the return of striker Luke Soule from Tuffley, and Max Harper Emerson and Fin Byrnes have also returned from Longlevens and Slimbridge, respectively,” revealed Blythe, who saw his side complete their pre-season schedule with a 2-1 defeat to Gloucester City U23s on Tuesday.

Shortwood United boss Mat Blythe Pic: Matt Bigwood

The Meadowbank side has also signed Quedgeley Wanderers’ duo Alex Barrett, Louis Peyton, and Tuffley’s Declan Earwaker alongside the exciting Chalmers Phin who has made the short trip to Nailsworth from Brimscombe. Blythe has also swooped for Frampton attacker Manola Marquez and Charlie Hobbs, with the goalkeeping department bolstered by the arrival of Frampton’s Aaron Taylor and Louis Evans.

Shortwood have retained the services of talented midfielder Lee Bowles, Josh Beadle, captain Joe Tryner, and Jacob Nowell, with Ben Langworthy joining his brother Ross at Fairford Town and Tom Hoskin moving to Cheltenham Saracens.

Covid outbreaks have disrupted Blythe’s pre-season plans, but Shortwood’s burgeoning youth setup has given the club a shot in the arm.

First-team coach Josh Loveridge Pic: Matt Bigwood

Blythe added: “Pre-season has been a bit up and down and like every club, Covid has caused some issues. But overall we’re really pleased with what we’ve seen and the emergence of one or two players from the reserve team has also been pleasing. Particularly, young Kieran Marks, who will develop into a really good player over the next season or two, and Fin Blythe, who is getting better all the time. Div 1 looks stronger than ever, so it’s going to be a really tough season, but we look forward to the challenge.”

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