Miller turns to young blood as Holwell opt for new direction

The recently-retired Michael Stevenson (centre) pitched in for Holwell's final pre-season match - a 2-1 defeat to Radford EMN-190731-104919002
The recently-retired Michael Stevenson (centre) pitched in for Holwell's final pre-season match - a 2-1 defeat to Radford EMN-190731-104919002
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Holwell Sports fans will have plenty of new faces to run the rule over as a new-look squad kicks off the United Counties League season on Saturday.

Sports boss Neil Miller and his team faced a hectic first pre-season at Welby Road, drafting in a younger and radically different playing roster.

Holwell's new signing Alfie Gaughan in action against Radford EMN-190731-104908002

Holwell's new signing Alfie Gaughan in action against Radford EMN-190731-104908002

Up to 12 new recruits have been brought in to add strength in depth to a squad which will have to cope without retired midfield talisman Michael Stevenson for the first time in eight seasons.

Up-and-coming wing prospect Tom Harris, brought through the ranks from a raw 16-year-old, is another departure following his move to crosstown UCL rivals Melton Town.

“We have had to work really hard for it and in return the lads have shown a willingness to work hard as well,” said Miller.

“Everyone we have brought in is under 24 so the squad age has been reduced and that should hopefully bode well for us as the season progresses.

“The turnover of players is quite vast, but we felt it needed to be done.

We could have had the same conversations with the same players and been on the same merry-go-round, but we have taken a completely new direction.

“The supporters may not recognise the lads to start with but they will soon become familiar faces and, I hope, fans favourites.”

Among the arrivals for fans to get to grips with is former Melton Town full-backs George Coser and George Vernon, both recruited from UCL Division One rivals Birstall United where Coser was captain.

Miller has also brought in Mansfield Town Academy prospects Mason Lee, a box-to-box midfielder, and Alfie Gaughan, another central midfielder who can play out wide.

The main challenge for Miller and his assistant Richard Cragg face, as do all managers with much-changed squads, is to knit them together as a team, drilling them with new systems in a different environment.

Results have so far been mixed in a testing pre-season which culminated with narrow defeats against three East Midlands Counties League opponents, the last of which was Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to old foes Radford.

“It’s been a pre-season of transition,” Miller added.

“We have brought in 10 or 12 players through the door and unfortunately we have lost some quality along the way.

“I’m happy with the quality of player we have got, but getting new players to gel together is never easy.

“Communication is the biggest challenge, but we were never the most vocal of teams last season and that’s one of the areas we wanted to improve anyway.”

Miller is careful not to set any specific targets for his new-look team, but he is keen to improve on last season when he steered the club away from relegation fears to an eventual 14th-place finish.

A team of so many new parts will need time to find their feet, but the manager is champing at the bit for Saturday’s season-opener at Rushden and Higham United, who finished last season in 11th.

“There are still things to work on, but we are ready,” Miller said.

“I’m not going to put expectancy on my players or myself, but I would like to see an improvement in our league position and add a little bit of consistency.

“I don’t want to be as Jekyll and Hyde as we were last year.”