By David Sillifant
LAUNCESTON Football Club have made five new signings ahead of their 2017/18 Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Premier Division campaign.
The Clarets finished 11th last term but manager Gary Jeffery has sought to address their lack of goals, which saw them score just 56 in 38 games, the seventh worst in the league, by signing strikers Liam Prynn and Sam Watts and bringing back wingers Chris Head and Lance Easton.
However, the most eye-catching signing is that of former Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper Cory Harvey from Plymouth Parkway.
Jeffery, who works as a coach for Plymouth Argyle and at Duchy College, was delighted with his signings, saying: “I was slightly disappointed with where we finished last season. I think our overall play should have seen us finish in the top-half as our performances improved immensely from the season before. But at the end of the day the stats don’t lie. We know we didn’t score enough goals and that’s where we’ve looked to strengthen over the summer.
“I’ve brought Chris Head and Lance Easton back to the club from (Plymouth) Parkway and Saltash and they’ll provide plenty of pace and trickery from the flanks and that’s what we’ve lacked. They can both play on the left or right and they’ll provide me with plenty of options.
“Up front we’ve signed Sam Watts and Liam Prynn and they’re both natural goalscorers. Liam was on the books of Torquay and Aston Villa as a youngster and last year he played for St Austell and scored a lot of goals so I’m excited to bring him in. Sam was at Argyle and I know him from the university scene. He’s moving to Launceston and he should do well for us.”
While there are five incomings, three have also departed Pennygillam.
Goalkeeper Jordan Tewkesbury and winger Pete Ireland have both gone back up country to live following the completion of their studies in Plymouth, while the versatile Callum Martindale has joined last year’s runners-up Saltash United.
Commenting on the departures, Jeffery knew that Ireland and Tewkesbury would leave but is delighted to bring in Harvey, who spent several years in the Plymouth Argyle youth set-up.
Jeffery said: “I knew that Pete and Jordan weren’t going to be around so that’s why it was important to replace them and we’ve done that. Jordan won the Supporters Player of the Year award last year and I’d have been more than happy to keep him. However, Cory Harvey is an excellent young goalkeeper and I know that he’ll develop with us here. Launceston have had some excellent goalkeepers over the years and we know that to have a successful team you need a good goalkeeper as they can earn you lots of points over the course of a season.
“Cory was on the books at Argyle and he suits us perfectly. He’s got excellent kicking ability and is comfortable with the ball at his feet and he wants to develop. With the coaching team here I think we’re the perfect club for him to get his career going again.”
While there has been plenty of transfer activity, the core of the squad stays the same with key players Lee Rundle, Liam Tilley, Ruben Kane, Jack Alexander and Sam Davey all signing on for another year, even if Alexander had to perform a u-turn.
Jeffery explained: “Jack left us at the end of the season to go to Parkway but then changed his mind. He was excellent for us last year in grabbing ten goals and ten assists and I was disappointed that he decided to leave. Thankfully we managed to talk him around. However, I’m sure the opening day game between us and Parkway will be lively but it gives us a great game to look forward to as we go through the rigours of pre-season.
With a squad of nearly 20, competition for places is going to be intense, but with pre-season already underway at Duchy College, Jeffery believes that having so many options will bring the best out of his players.
Jeffery said: “I know I have a lot of options now but I’d rather have these selection headaches than struggling to get a decent team together. It’s up to the players to show me in training and in the seven pre-season friendlies we have that they deserve to be running out against Parkway on August 12.”
Although Launceston have one of the smaller budgets in the division, Jeffery believes that the chance to improve as players and the team spirit at the club are vital. Jeffery has also brought in Lee Britchford as first-team coach to work alongside assistant Mark Blake while Adam Slater who is a FA medical tutor and sports therapist at Plymouth Argyle is also on board.
Jeffery said: “While we can’t pay as much as a lot of clubs in this league we can offer something different. All of the players seem to like the training sessions we put on and people seem to want to play for us. I’ve worked with a lot of youngsters at Duchy College and with Argyle and they know that I’ll give them opportunities. I’m not going to drop them after a couple of bad games. They’ll be given a proper chance to show what they’re all about.”
With a strong team both on and off the field, Jeffery is looking to push on.
Jeffery added: “I turned down the St Austell job in the summer because I’m a local lad who wants to manage his hometown football club and I also have a baby on the way in the next couple of weeks.
“Last year was a tad disappointing in the sense that I feel like we should have perhaps finished eighth or ninth and we need to make sure that this year we finish in the top ten. We also want a decent cup to go alongside that. We haven’t had one for a while so if you offered me a top-ten finish and a good cup run I’d definitely take it.”