07:00PM, Thursday 02 June 2022
Will De Havilland
Maidenhead United’s squad for next season is already starting to take shape, with the club having held onto the core of the team that produced a sensational second half of the season to ensure survival several weeks before the campaign concluded.
Yesterday (Wednesday) the Magpies released their retained list for the 2022/23 season – players who either remain under contract or have agreed new deals – and there were a couple of pleasant surprises for supporters, as well as a couple of notable omissions.
Manager Alan Devonshire will be pleased to have retained 15 players from the squad which comfortably finished 17th last season, with club captain Alan Massey and central defensive partner Will De Havilland to remain, along with last season’s top goalscorer Josh Kelly.
Sam Barratt, whose season was hampered by injury, will also be looking to bounce back to form next season with more goals and appearances, while key performers such as Dan Sparkes, supporters player of the season Dan Gyollai, Charlee Adams, Kane Ferdinand, Ryan Upward and Remy Clerima will also be back in black and white and looking to push the Magpies further up the table.
But Devonshire will have been loathed to lose two or three key players from the squad, most notably Shaun Donnellan, Ryheem Sheckleford and George Wells, while Nathan Blissett also led the line well during his time at the club. Former academy player Brad Keetch has also proved to Devonshire he's ready to stake his claim for a place in next season's squad.
The Magpies are also already off the mark in the transfer market, announcing three new players just 11 days after the final game of the season.
Temi Eweka, Cole Kpekawa and Koby Arthur were unveiled last week and Devonshire said he’s excited to work with and hopefully improve all three players. Central defender Eweka has arrived from Bracknell Town, having been part of a title winning team that conceded just 12 league goals all season.
Kpekawa, 26, is a centre back who most recently featured for Hemel Hempstead having come through the QPR Academy and played in the Premier League, while Arthur has signed from relegated Dover Athletic and can be deployed in several attacking positions.
“I am looking forward to working with Temi,” said Devonshire. “He’s a young player who’s quick and strong. He’s just had a very good season with Bracknell and we got some good reports about him so that’s why we decided to make a move.
“Cole is a boy that has played at a good level before. He was at Hemel last year and can play both at left-back and left centre-back.
“Koby, we’ve liked for a while too. He’s played higher, and he’s only 26. He can play in the middle, he can play off the right, he can play in behind. He can function in a few positions. I think he wanted a new challenge so we’re going to give that to him.
“I’m excited to work with all three of these boys to be honest. They know they’ve got to work hard to get in the team regularly and we are going to push them on to do well. We targeted them probably a couple of months before the end of the season.”
These signings would not have been possible had it not been the work of chief scout Lee Devonshire and the manager was keen to credit his son's work behind the scenes in bolstering the Magpies’ squad.
He added that the club isn’t finished for incomings just yet as they'll need to replace six or seven of the players that are leaving.
“We all do things together, but my boy is a big asset,” he said. “He’s picked up some good players over the years and hopefully that continues.
“We are still looking as we still have some positions that need strengthening. We’ve got the nucleus in now so it’s not as if it’s something we’ve got to go chasing. It’s something we can really take our time on and hopefully get the right ones in.
“I think we have re-signed 10 to 12 boys and there are six to seven that have left. It isn’t a nice thing telling people you are letting them go but that’s all been done. Now it’s a time of getting replacements in. I’ve got to keep my guard up with players. I get a lot of calls at this time of the year from agents and people like that. It’s just a case of sifting through some of the players we’re offered and putting question marks by the ones we are interested in. We’ll carry on making a few decisions over the next few weeks, really. I’m just trying to make us better, you know. It’s hard when you are part-time in this full-time league. The budget we’ve got compared to everyone else isn’t the same. It’s just about getting value for money really. That’s probably why we have to go a bit lower than most of the other teams. We will try to find the next Max Kilman, as they say.”