Pre-season begun with what can only be described as a cull of catastrophic proportions as all but 5/6 players from last year’s squad were brutally removed from the “group chat” and told their services were no longer required. With only a couple of months until the season opener and needing to recruit 30/40+ players time was against us.
So first up, was the trials…
Trial day one brought about a wealth of young skilful players, the Romford Riyad (Samraj Gill) and The Guvnor (Tre McDonnell), to name a few. However, for all the technically gifted attacking players on show I still felt we were lacking that experience and “know how” that we were so short on last season.
Trial day two and with a lower turn out and less quality throughout. Things looked disappointing, until unearthing the professionalism and maturity we had been crying out for in the form of the biggest family to hit football since the Neville brothers – The Trumans. In Pete Truman we had the old school centre-half who has been around the block to organise our once shaky defence and in Scott, the combative yet classy midfield general, Chairman Norths’ prayers may well have been answered.
The weekend had arrived for our first Pre-Season games and with around 40 players to choose from, two equal sides were picked with one travelling to play Chingford AFC – who had dominated the Essex Alliance Premier league in recent seasons (and coming away 4-0 winners) – and one hosting East Ham International (drawing 3-3).
Overall not a bad weekend of results, but Mark being his usual merciless self, spotted weaknesses that needed to be addressed and heads would roll in the WhatsApp group once again!
The next weekend saw us take on Ryan FC of the Essex Olympian League and Mark was able to give a start to his marquee summer signing and prolific scorer in the form of Harry Chalk. ULFC ran riot, ending the game 8-0 winners and although Harry didn’t manage to net a goal on his debut, his Diego Costa/Mike Tyson-esque style of play had made him an instant hit with the United faithful!
Fellow debutant Ajani Wilson was also impressive, putting in a tireless performance down the left flank that was reminiscent of a 1990s Cafu (although he played on the right, but that’s not important).
Our 4th fixture saw us pitted against Lymore Gardens, a psychical and well organised side. Lymore provided a real test and dominated the game for large spells so we did really well to snatch a 3-2 win with quite a young side out ourselves.
In the other game we had lined up to play AFC Croydon but in typical grassroots fashion, the game was on at 9am, off at 10.30am, back on at 11.15am and finally cancelled an hour before kick off when all of our players got there.
Our final game to date was against a newly formed Thames Ironworks FC side, which had been put together by some of the lads at West Ham Fan TV. Despite coming away 12-0 winners it was an enjoyable contest played in the right spirit. Fair play to TIFC; we had a very strong side out that day, so it was always going to difficult for a team still trying to learn to play together.
So here we are, five fixtures in, four wins one draw, still undefeated with three more pre-season games left to play. We have recruited well and the mood in the camp couldn’t be better!
In terms of my own pre-season, 12 goals in 4 games isn’t a bad start and I believe I can score a hat-trick every time I step on to the pitch at the moment. Bring on the season!
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