Season preview: Bodmin Town

Transitions can often be difficult to handle in football and, as can be expected, plenty of pre-season focus is upon Priory Park following the departure of long-term manager Darren Gilbert and some of his key playing personnel.

However, since being confirmed as Gilbert’s successor, new boss Matt Hayden has worked every hour god sends to ensure Town are in the best place possible to start the 2022-23 Premier West campaign.

Following a modest playing career, representing the likes of Ivybridge Town, Plymstock United and Elburton Villa, Hayden went on to cut his managerial teeth during a spell at Bodmin’s South West Peninsula League rivals St Blazey.

Fast forward a few years and Hayden now finds himself in the top job at Bodmin where last season, after a short spell in charge of Callington Town, he joined forces with Gilbert and co-manager Alan Carey to bed himself prior to succeeding the duo full time.

“Being completely honest, to take over from Darren Gilbert, who has won everything you can possibly win over such a massive space of time, for me to be given the job after him is a privilege and an honour,” he said.

“I am unbelievably humbled and flattered by the opportunity. A few years ago, whilst I was still playing, I would never have imagined taking over Bodmin Town from Darren Gilbert.

“It is a massive club and a massive opportunity for me, one that I am really looking to thrive on. I am really looking forward to stepping up and going for it. I will be working my hardest to bring the good times back to Bodmin.

“The way I see it, with my experience of playing, I had no right to step into that St Blazey job compared to some of the people who may have been interested in it. I have kicked on from there and never looked back. I must be doing alright if I am taking over from Gilby at Bodmin.”

Early indications appear positive for his new look side, with impressive displays against Tavistock (2-2) and Bere Alston (2-0) already in the bag, even with a number of their star performers yet to kick a ball in anger due to the usual injuries, work commitments and holidays that come with pre-season.

A 3-1 loss at home to Torpoint Athletic followed, with the midweek evening fixture marking the first occasion in which Hayden was able to utilise the majority of his playing squad.

A 4-1 defeat at another Western League side, Millbrook, and a 2-2 draw against visiting Elburton Villa lead into a final preparatory run out against The Windmill this Saturday.

“We have done well and are showing great composure on the ball,” continued Hayden. “It is looking very promising. We just need to get a few more additions through the door and baulk the squad up with some more quality. Definitely watch this space, we are not finished yet.”

Players joining the ranks in recent weeks have included winger Jacob Bowker (Ivybridge Town) as well as central midfielders Curtis Dennan, who arrives from local league football in the Plymouth area, and Jordan Hogan (Dobwalls).

They will be joined in the middle of the park by Lewis Webber (Wadebridge Town) who, along with goalkeeper Adam Robathan (free agent) and Tyler Yendle (Bovey Tracey), has returned the fold after some time away from the club.

“Jacob is a very talented young winger who is going to be a real asset for us,” said Hayden. “It is definitely a position that needed strengthening. He has been training and looking fit and sharp. He is really good on the ball and I am looking forward to seeing him in a game situation.

“Curtis, a central midfielder, has also come in. Since I started managing, back at St Blazey, I have been trying to get him. I played with him locally and he was phenomenal. I can see that he has matured loads more into the game. His fitness needs improving but he adds unbelievable quality in the midfield.

“Jordan Duffey has been released and Adam Robathan has come back in. He is a great shot stopper and everything is spot on with him. I am more than happy with that. Lewis has been training and played a few games for us as well. He works so hard off the ball for his teammates and is technically really good.

“Tyler Yendle has also played for Bodmin before and has been at Barnstaple Town and Bideford. He has looked really solid and reads the game so well. His range of passing is superb and he is both strong and aggressive. Jordan’s work rate is unbelievable, his strength on the ball, his heading ability. He demands 100 per cent out of everybody and his leadership skills will help the squad.”

Those leaving the club include Dan Jennings and Lyle Johnson (both Liskeard Athletic), Nathanial West (Helston Athletic), Elliott Crawford and Jake Smith (both Torpoint Athletic), Tom Chambers (retired) and Steve Simmonds (Wadebridge Town).

The loss of Jennings could be felt the hardest, with the deadly potency of a consistent golden boot chaser leaving a gaping hole in the attacking department.

However, Hayden had already moved to snap up the services of former Plymouth Argyle and Saltash United striker Rubin Wilson who, after scoring both goals against Elburton on Tuesday, looks to be peaking at just the right time.

“Rubin comes with a very good background and pedigree with his experience at Argyle and from playing at high levels. He has struggled to nail down a home as such in the last few years but we are hoping at Bodmin that we can give that to him.

“He has struggled a bit with injuries in the last year or so but he’s been training hard during the off-season and got himself really fit and strong.

“He is going to be a real asset for us and it is a real statement of intent for where I want to go and where I want to take the club.

“Hopefully it is a step toward bringing the good times back to Bodmin and I am really looking forward to working with him.”

First five matches

Sat, Aug 6: Sticker (H) 3pm – League

Tue, Aug 9: Callington Town (A) 7.30pm – League

Sat, Aug 13: Bude Town (A) 3pm – League

Sat, Aug 20: Liskeard Athletic (A) 3pm – League

Wed, Aug 24: Godolphin Atlantic (H) 7.30pm – League

Last season at a glance

League: 7th in South West Peninsula League Premier West (P:32, W:15, D:4, L:13 – F:69, A:61)

Cornwall Senior Cup: Second round – lost 5-3 at home to Falmouth Town

Walter C Parson League Cup: Third round – lost 1-0 at Ivybridge Town

FA Vase: First round proper – lost 6-0 at Brockenhurst

Club information

Manager: Matt Hayden

Chairman: Brian Retallack

Ground: Priory Park (Bodmin, PL31 2AE)

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