‘It’s been brilliant’ – title winners Baffins Milton Rovers U18s break up a year ahead of schedule following Hampshire Development League cup final loss

Mark Robinson has hailed a ‘brilliant’ season as his Baffins Milton Rovers under-18s break up a year earlier than planned.

By Simon Carter
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 11:05 am

Rovers won the 2021/22 Hampshire Development League U18 East Division title in their first year in the age group.

That followed on from the squad winning Portsmouth Youth League titles at U13, U14, U15 and U16 level during their time at Fleur De Lys.

Journey's end - the Baffins Milton Rovers U18 squad after their last game, last night's cup final loss to Gosport Borough. Picture by Dave Haines

It was the last game together for the Baffins squad, most of whom have been signed on Wessex League Premier forms by new first team boss Danny Thompson for next term.

Manager Robinson said the squad’s journey together – plus that of his assistants Mark Neil and John Deans - had come to a premature end because of how good they are.

‘There were logistical nightmares of never knowing what team I would have (for a Sunday league game) until Saturday evening because the lads were playing on a Saturday,’ he told The News.

‘Six or seven of them featured for the Baffins first team and Harrison Cable spent time on loan to Lymington in the Southern League.

‘Winning the league was a major achievement when you factor in the injuries, suspensions, college football, players not being fresh having played on a Saturday.

‘It’s been a brilliant season and the lads can hold their heads high.

‘Overall, I would have taken winning the league over any of the cups.’

Robinson added: ‘It was emotional (the cup final appearance). It was more about the emotion of the team playing together for the last time than the actual game.

‘I’d like to thank Baffins for the opportunities they have given us. It’s just a shame it’s come to an end, I wasn’t ready to stop - I’ve been forced into early retirement. Sundays are going to be strange - I’ll have to talk to the wife a bit more!

‘Tommo (Thompson) offered me the chance to be on his coaching staff, but I liked the decision making, picking the team and stuff.

‘Tommo has signed most of the squad on and he’s said everyone will get a clean slate in pre-season.

‘Collectively, they are a very good team but individually there’s some great talent there. They’re all capable of going on to play at a decent level.

‘It’s been a brilliant journey, but the team may have finished at the right time.’

In all, eight of Robinson’s squad were handed first team minutes in 2021/22. Six of them - Ethan Gee, Bailey Neil, Owen Pelham, Harvey Welham, Kian Murphy and Kai Davis - started with Liam Brewer and Oscar Deans coming on as a sub.

Of those, Gee started the most matches (8). Sadly, he missed the cup final having broken a wrist playing in a league game against Stoneham recently.

It is believed he is one player who won’t be signing for Baffins next season, having received an offer from another Wessex League club.

Brewer was also part of Joe Oastler’s Havant & Waterlooville U18s in 2021/22. They, too, suffered a Westleigh Park cup final loss, going down 2-0 to Camberley in the Hampshire FA Midweek Floodlit Cup .