Tuffley Rovers will head into the first weekend of the 2019/20 competitive playing season with their uncertainty surrounding the availability of a number of their uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division squad.
With International Clearance pending for one player and a succession of injuries offering varying degrees of uncertainty about the availability of several others, there is one particularly noticeable absentee, with Pritchett himself definitely ruled out for the visit to Virginia Water. Due to a long-standing commitment, Rovers’ Player/Manager Mark Pritchett will not be at the game, meaning his Assistant, Rich Cox, will take charge on the day.
With Kieran Alder, Joel White and Paul Carter having left the club over the summer, along with the end of the short-term arrangements for Will Dawes and Tyreece Briscoe, it is a much changed squad that will commence Rovers’ fifth consecutive season in Step 5 Non-League football. The squad for today’s visit to Stag Meadow will include six players in line for a Tuffley Rovers Hellenic League debut, whilst there is a return to the club for Courtney Hamilton, after he completed a transfer from Bishops Cleeve, having joined them at the start of pre-season. Jack Beardsell, signed after spending the last season at Fairford Town, is one player set to make his first start for the club.
Earlier in the week, Rovers looked to be facing a goalkeeping crisis, with first choice Luke Merchant suffering an injury that looks set to rule him out for a while, but Alex Avenell, who filled in whilst Merchant was away on holiday during pre-season, has been signed and will make his debut for the club, having previously appeared for Bishops Cleeve at the end of the 2018/19 Hellenic League season.
Having recorded one win and a draw against Virginia Water when the two clubs came together last season - the first time the clubs had ever met - the new look Rovers squad will go into the game with a sense of optimism, with Pritchett hoping that he’ll return from his break with a first opening day win since August 2016, and a much better result than 12 months ago, when his side were thumped by Royal Wootton Bassett Town.
Key to their hopes this season could be long-serving duo, Macaulay Herbert and Warren Mann, who have been appointed captain and vice-captain, respectively, following White’s move to Southern League side Slimbridge. Those two, along with other senior players like Sam Hill and Brett James, will be central figures for Rovers this season, as an otherwise very young squad look to avoid a repeat of their relegation battle last year.
Rovers Squad: Alex Avenell; Sam Hill; Jai Maisey; Declan Earwaker; Macaulay Herbert; Luke Troke; Courtney Hamilton; Dominik Kent; Brett James; Warren Mann; Martin Smith; Jack Beardsell; Jake Rhodes; Ashley Bird; Adam Bloomfield; Ellis Waugh.