‘We need to keep the right players fit. We didn’t have enough senior players fit for enough games last season’ – Gosport Borough boss Gale ahead of new Southern League campaign

Keeping his best players fit - that’s the key for boss Shaun Gale when predicting a possible Gosport Borough promotion challenge in 2022/23.

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 4th August 2022, 2:27 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th August 2022, 2:27 pm

In his first full season in charge, Gale saw Boro finish 15 points outside the Southern League Premier South play-off zone last term.

They were in contention for a top five finish for most of the season, and a 1-0 home win over eventually promoted Farnborough in early February underlined their credentials.

But Boro only tasted victory once in their following nine games - and that a last-gasp success at lowly Merthyr - and that ultimately proved costly.

Former Pompey midfielder Danny Hollands joined Gosport this summer after being released by Eastleigh. Picture by Tom Phillips

Injuries to experienced campaigners such as Mike Carter, Matt Paterson and Rory Williams were a huge blow to Boro’s hopes.

And Gale is hoping such frustrations can be put to one side as Gosport bid to reclaim the National League South place they lost in 2016/17.

He has made some impressive close season signings - ex-Pompey midfielder Danny Hollands being the main one following his release by Eastleigh. Elsewhere, Abdulai Baggie (Hawks), Harvey Bradbury (Oxford City/Welling) and Andreas Robinson (Weymouth) were also playing at a higher level in 2021/22.

‘They’re all good signings, and all good lads - that’s an important thing. They all had to fit into our dressing room, because we had a good dressing room last season.

New Gosport signing Abdulai Baggie. Picture by Martyn White

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‘Yes, they are good names on paper but names on paper don’t win you games. You can sign Messi but it’s no good if he’s not on the pitch.

‘We need to keep the right players fit. We didn’t have enough senior players fit for enough games last season, basically.

‘I think Mike Carter only played 12 games, Rory Williams had a couple of hamstring injuries, Matt Paterson’s now had two knee operations in two years.

Harvey Bradbury (white) in action at Fareham prior to his dismissal last weekend. Picture by Tom Phillips

‘We didn’t have enough strength in depth. At times, we had four or five (senior players) missing and we ended up with a team of kids. That’s no disrespect to them. We’ve got players this season - again, no disrespect to those here last season - but we need to keep them fit.

‘There’s things we’ve looked at, things we’re going to try and do differently.

‘We need to be fitter. We weren’t fit enough last season. I’m not saying we weren’t fit, but we could have been fitter. Perhaps that resulted in some of the injuries …’

Robinson (tendonitis) and Tarbuck (ankle) have been nursing injuries, but are in with a chance of featuring in this Saturday’s league opener against Merthyr at Privett Park.

Bradbury, sent off in last weekend’s friendly at Fareham, is available to play. Any suspension will cover purely friendly matches.

Busari - the victim of a sickening and unprovoked assault near Gunwharf Quays recently - is Gosport’s only long-term injury absentee.

Gale believes he has managed to build a squad containing the classic mix of youth and experience.

Hollands (37 next birthday), Robinson (30) and Baggie (31) will undoubtedly add extra nous to the Boro squad.

Against that, ex-Pompey Academy pair Harry Kavanagh and Harvey Rew will all be better after a maiden season in men’s football.

‘You need that right blend, and I think we’re close to it,’ said Gale. ‘You need youth, you need younger legs, you need that enthusiasm.

‘There’s no point in having 14 or 15 Danny Hollands. I couldn’t afford that anyway. You need to work within your budget and the senior players inevitably are on a bit more money.

‘I could do with another experienced centre half, but apart from that I think we’re ok.’

Gale added: ‘The squad is good enough I believe to challenge. And not just for the play-offs, but to go up - we want to get into the Conference South.

‘We will need to work hard and have a bit of luck, this is a tough league. Nothing is ever easy. I think we have a good side, but so have Hayes & Yeading, Met Police, Truro, Plymouth Parkway, Weston.’

While new faces have arrived, others have departed. Carter has dropped down a level to join AFC Totton, as has Luke Hallett who was on a season-long loan to Gosport from Forest Green last season.

Three strikers have also left - Nick Dembele, former Pompey Academy hopeful Brad Lethbridge and ex-Baffins and Moneyfields regular Ryan Pennery.

Dembele made a fine start to his Boro career at the start of last season but was never the same player after a three-month injury lay-off.

‘He was travelling two hours down from London, which is not ideal,’ said Gale. ‘No disrespect to Nick, but we’ve got better options now.’

Lethbridge struggled for game time throughout the season, while Pennery was recovering from an ACL op when he was signed from AFC Totton in early 2022.