IAN LONG believes Alvechurch now possess the strongest squad he has worked with since joining the club.
Despite interest in Coleshill Town forward Dean Rathbone likely to fade to nothing – while Coleshill have targeted Church forward Nathan Waite – the Church boss suggests his squad of 23 players is largely equipped to keep the Lye Meadow club among the Evo-Stik Northern Premier South pace-setters.
Long and assistant Richard Colwell have further enhanced last season’s triple winners with signings such as Ash Carter, Mitch Botfield, Luke Yates, Yusifu Ceesay, Mitch Botfield, Alex Darlison and McCauley Manning, plus the returns of Jordan Nadat and Charlie Price, whilst youngsters like Ben Tilbury and Simon Chin have also emerged.
The Church manager says no club will ever stop looking to improve their squad but he has been pleased with how the new and old have blended to help Alvechurch head towards Christmas second in the table in their debut season in the Northern Premier League.
“I think this is a stronger squad than the one we had last season,” said Long. “It’s the best we’ve had. We added to the quality and we’ve also got players who can play in a few different roles if needed.
“I’m not saying I wouldn’t bring in anybody else if we felt it was the right move and the player wanted to come, but at the moment we are pretty much covered in all areas.
“We’ve added in the summer with players like Ash Carter, Mitch Botfield, McCauley Manning and Yusifu Ceesay and Luke Yates, who have added an extra spark.
“We can play numerous formations, different shapes. If we need to chase a game, we’ve got options to add extra firepower and if we need to shore things up we’ve got defensive options.
“I’ll admit I’m hard to please but I trust all the players in the squad.”
The squad, however, has been depleted with Darlison set to join Babucar Sauane on the long-term absentees list.
Defender Darlison, who joined from Lye Town, is recovering from shingles but also faces an operation to realign his jaw – an injury he first suffered as a youngster with Walsall.
Livewire midfielder Sauane is recovering from the groin injury which has kept him out since the start of November but is also heading to Gambia to get married and will be away until the end of January. Winger Chris Whittington is another on the casualty list but is making good progress.
Alvechurch had been interested in Rathbone, a pal of fellow striker Nadat, but it seems likely he will be staying with the Colemen, who themselves have made a seven-day approach for Waite.
However, since both Alvechurch and Midland League Premier Division Coleshill are in different leagues, both players could sign on dual registration forms.
After Saturday’s home game with Kidsgrove Athletic was rained off, snow put paid to the midweek JW Hunt Cup tie at Heath Hayes. A new date has yet to be arranged.
Alvechurch will be hoping to get the go-ahead for the trip to Leek Town on Saturday.
Despite the week’s snow, Alvechurch have continued to train, with Long taking the squad for a fitness session at the David Lloyd club in Brierley Hill on Tuesday.
“It’s frustrating to have games called off, especially when we have been on a good run in the league,” said Long. “You don’t want the momentum to stop but it’s one of those things. It’s something you get used to.
“We’ve kept the players ticking over with some gym work at David Lloyd and they even got a jacuzzi at the end of it. I must be getting soft!”
Church have a free week next midweek and then entertain Gresley on Saturday, December 23.