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Sheppey United start Southern Counties East League season with bigger squad after summer of change

Sheppey United will start the new season with plenty of new faces on show.

Boss Ernie Batten and his team have added experience and flair to their squad ahead of the new Southern Counties East Premier Division season.

Sheppey United first team coach Marcel Nimani with manager Ernie Batten Picture: Marc Richards (49580781)
Sheppey United first team coach Marcel Nimani with manager Ernie Batten Picture: Marc Richards (49580781)

There are 12 new recruits and Sheppey hope the bigger squad will help them cope with what could be added issues, with many clubs experiencing shortages due to Covid isolation.

Winger Taurean Roberts - a former Crystal Palace youngster - is among the newcomers while experience comes from the likes of defenders Ben Wilson, Danny Smith and tough tackling Ashley Sains.

Kane Phillip, James Jeffrey, winger Michael Hagan, goalkeeper Liam Northwood, midfielder Tom Fitzgerald, former Maidstone wide-man De Niro Pinto, forward Luke Carey and attacking midfielder Billy Lewins are also in the door.

Eleven of last season’s squad remain and Sheppey first team coach Marcel Nimani believes they are now well set for another challenge.

Nimani said: “We have added some new faces and we have had a good pre-season with six training sessions and six games.

“We have managed to maintain those players we wanted to and added some flair alongside some experience and stability with guys who have already won this league.

“We have got a bigger squad this year compared to previous years because we predict there will be more injuries because play has been stop-start and we predict some isolation periods (because of Covid) coming our way so we have done that to compensate.

“It’s a testament to the talent that we have in our squad that we still haven’t picked our starting XI.”

The Ites start their season with a tough opener at Tunbridge Wells this Saturday.

Sheppey will be among the favourites to challenge this season, after making a strong start to the short-lived 2020/21 season, but Nimani believes there will be plenty of competition for those two potential promotion places.

He said: “While I do think us and Chatham stand a great chance, there are five teams in the league who have the attributes to compete for promotion right through to the end of the season. I think this is going to be the tightest competition in SCEFL history.”

While he doesn’t name those other potential challengers, this weekend’s opponents will be fancied as a contender by many.

Nimani said: “In my opinion they have the most experienced management team in the league, I feel they get the best out of their resources and their previous track record in the league shows it.

“They will be very organised and Tunbridge Wells away, with their supporters, is as hard a game as any in this league or in the league above.”

Sheppey follow it up with a trip to newly-promoted Kennington on Tuesday night.

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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