‘Centre forward spot is definitely up for grabs’ – Baffins Milton Rovers boss Wilkinson searching for a ‘golden’ signing
Baffins Milton Rovers boss Shaun Wilkinson admits he’s looking for a ‘golden’ signing - a striker capable of scoring over 20 goals next season.
Wilkinson is generally content with the squad he is assembling ahead of the 2021/22 Wessex League Premier season.
But he knows he is missing the one player all managers at all levels crave - a prolific forward.
Elsewhere in the division, AFC Portchester boss Dave Carter has kept Lee Wort and recruited Liam Robinson - both players who have scored over 20 goals a season at Wessex Premier level.
Wort struck 49 times in 48 league and cup games when Sholing completed a Wessex League and FA Vase double in 2013/14, and netted 27 times in 33 league matches when the Boatman won the league again in 2018/19.
Robinson fired 21 goals in 35 matches in 2017/18, the season Blackfield & Langley won the Wessex Premier title.
At Moneyfields, the talismanic Steve Hutchings boasts a stunning record at step 5 level with 140 goals in six Wessex seasons, including 37 in 34 matches in 2014/15. Though the striker has not actually signed on for next season yet, new boss Glenn Turnbull has ‘no worries’ that he will not remain loyal to the club.
At Horndean, Harry Jackson belted 23 Wessex Premier goals in 31 games in 2018/19 and at Fareham Town Josh Benfield has scored 20 step 5 league goals over the course of the last two pandemic-scarred campaigns.
Wilkinson, like most other Wessex managers, will be casting envious glances at those sort of strikers. Since losing Jason Parish to Portchester in October 2019, Baffins have lacked a regular marksman.
Parish, now at Bognor, struck 19 times in 33 Wessex Premier games for Rovers in 2018/19 and netted seven goals in seven goals at the start of the following term prior to the player returning to the Royals.
Other than the well documented departure of captain Zak Sharp to Portchester, Wilkinson has tied down those who he wanted to keep.
In addition, the vastly-experienced Lee Molyneaux has arrived along with Moneyfields pair Ed Sanders and Rhys Lloyd, US Portsmouth midfielder Harry Sargeant and Portchester’s former Pompey Academy youngster Oscar Johnson.
With the squad he's assembled, Wilkinson is anticipating an 'exciting' second season with Rovers.
'On the staff front, we’re sorted; on the player front, yeah, obviously we lost Zak Sharp, but Ed Sanders is a good player who I worked with at Gosport before,’ said Wilkinson.
‘It’s exciting times at the club, we feel like the second season was always the season for us; the work that goes on off the pitch - it’s a new up-and-coming exciting club that people want to be at.
‘To be fair, my phone hasn’t stopped, if I wanted to I could have 40 or 50 players for pre-season.
‘I’m happy with who we’ve retained and it was always about adding three or four; for me, it was never about having wholesale changes.
'That’s the golden thing, I’m looking for a striker and that’s it.
‘If we don’t get one we’ll go with what we’ve got.
‘We feel we’ve got good players to fill that gap; it’s an opportunity for everyone coming back to pre-season with a clean slate to stake their claim to get into that starting 11.
‘The centre-forward spot is definitely one that’s up for grabs. To be fair, a 20-30 goal a season striker, they cost a lot of money - and we haven’t got that.
‘There are some good strikers around locally but a few of them are settled at their clubs or they want too much money.
‘We’ve got about three or four who’ll be coming in for pre-season, but unless something pops out at me we’ll go with what we’ve got for now.'
Among the strike options Wilkinson does have are Miles Everett, Rudi Blankson and Blu Boam.
Everett certainly knows where the goal is, having struck 19 times in 40 Wessex Premier games for Horndean in 2017/18.
Boam, meanwhile, scored eight times in 34 Wessex Premier outings for Baffins in the club’s debut top flight season in 2017/18, but has not played regularly since.