This season has seen a number of newly formed clubs joining the league as well as new clubs joining the league from other leagues. Ashton Keynes join the #SDFL from the Cirencester and are hoping for big things in the debut season. This is a club with ambitious goals to take the club up through the #SDFL in to the Wiltshire leagues and beyond.
Team manager, Richard Sutton, gave us his thoughts on joining the league…
Q: – Ashton Keynes are making their debut in the #SDFL this season. What can the other teams expect to be up against on the pitch when they play an Ashton Keynes side?
Due to our catchment area we are in a good position to bring in players from not only the Swindon and District area, but also Cirencester. My aim always is to try and create a good mix of experience and youth with a range of skill sets.
We try to adopt a strong team ethic both on and off the pitch and I would hope that other teams can expect a hardworking, physical side when they come against us. Saying that, we really try and focus on playing attractive football, which I feel is achievable even at grass roots level. We work hard in training to work on ball possession and for players to work for one another.
Last season we were joint top until Christmas where we had a run of very poor results meaning we finished further down the league than we are capable of. We found the largest reason for this was missing 2 out and out strikers as we lost both of ours to injury and travelling.
This season we have recruited across most positions but specifically in the attacking area and I am very pleased with the acquisitions we have made.
Q: Have you been able to do much research in to the #SDFL league and the teams that compete in it?
I feel from a tactical point of view it is useful to have an idea of our opposition before we play any games. Obviously a majority of the team’s knowledge and my own of the SDFL is quite limited, however we have viewed footage on the YourSportSwindon website of game highlights, reports and spoken to other clubs who have faced SDFL teams in the past.
We have also had the pleasure of playing two of the teams from the SDFL in previous County Cups. We had a hard fought match against Avtar Construction 2 seasons ago where we came out winners.
Last season we were knocked out of the cup in the last 16 by Bassett Bulldogs after we had a depleted squad. We played Bassett Bulldogs again last Saturday where we won comfortably which was a very pleasing performance.
We are yet to know fully what to expect this season, but we are very much up for the challenge. We are also looking forward to meeting new clubs and being part of the SDFL community which we have found so far to be very welcoming.
Q: What are your ambitions and goals for the club this season and beyond?
Our short term goals are to compete in every match and to play to the best of our abilities. I have full faith in the capability of the squad, it’s always the question of whether we can deliver.
We have been running 2 teams for the last couple of seasons but this year we have reverted back to 1 team. This means we can have a full focus on the season ahead and there will be good competition for places.
We would love to push for silverware this season; we have done well in the Wiltshire Junior County Cup in the last few seasons but have always come up short. I would like another good cup run this season either in the County or Domestic.
In regards to the league, I would like to think we can focus on a top 3 finish to give us the option to promote to the Wilts County league. This is more of a long term plan for the club but if this option comes sooner then all the better. This season we just want to finish as high as possible while we gel the new team together.
We are lucky to have such excellent facilities including a pitch and pavilion that we can call home. Work has been carried out over the last 12 months to start to improve the facilities further. The changing rooms were refurbished in early 2017, and work is about to commence on the rest of the building including the bar area which has become a little dated.
I feel that all of this work will create an attractive place for players to play football and will help the growth of the club.
Aside from this, our ambition is to become Charter Standard in the next month or so. We are working with Adam Greaney at the Wiltshire FA who has been extremely helpful in moving this forward.
Q: Pre-season is well underway for most clubs. How has pre-season gone for yourselves?
Pre season started not long after the last season finished. We train throughout the summer with only a short break in between. However actual matches were not started until last week. Due to a shared facility with other village sports we are unable to use our pitch until August as the Cricket team have games throughout the summer.
This means we now have a full fixture list in August prior to our first league game against Bakers Arms in September. We are still looking for 1 other Wednesday evening fixture in August.
Our first friendly and win against Bassett Bulldogs at the weekend was very good. We were 4-0 up at half time, but with 18/19 players available, changes were made regularly in the second half and the game lost the flow.
I was very pleased with our new signings, including Steve Andrews who has been banging the goals in the Ciren Leagues for many seasons – he scored two well taken goals on his debut.
His partnership with Nick Gregory our other striker looks like it has the potential to be very strong. We also have other attackers to return yet including George Tasker and Alex Rudd, both who are superb, so I am quite excited about our attacking threat this year.
We have also done well to retain some of our strongest players from last season including Dean Wilson and Barnaby Chadwick. There were a number of higher teams who attempted to tempt some of our players away last year, but they have stuck together as I think they understand the direction the club is taking.
Q: Being a village side, do you think this has a positive impact on the team when it comes to recruiting players?
I would say it has previously, Ashton Keynes is not a large village but has delivered some really good players in the past.
I will always welcome any local lads with open arms to the club, however to create a squad with depth you have to look further afield. The main aim of the club is to create a platform for local players to be able to play the game. I would say over 50% of our team either grew up in Ashton Keynes or have a strong connection.
The rest are locally based and this works very well to create the team togetherness we are looking for.
Q: Who do you think will be pushing for top spot come the end of the season?
Obviously Tawny Owl have not lost or drawn in the past 2 seasons, and unless something drastic has happened I would expect them to be the team to beat. Bakers Arms who were previously Avtar Construction when we played them were a good outfit.Very physical and played some good football and I expect them to be up there this season.
Aside from that we are not really sure what to expect, but would hope that we are up there competing!