It is all change at Launceston as the Clarets prepare to enter the 2022/23 South West Peninsula League season under the leadership of a brand-new name in Cornish football.
A promising 2021/22 campaign that saw the Clarets confound pre-season predictions by finishing in the top half resulted in manager Dan Hart being poached by Western League outfit Buckland Athletic at the end of the season.
Hart has been replaced at Pennygillam by former Watford left-back Neil Price, who has relocated to Cornwall from the south east.
Price is aware of the scale of the rebuilding project that stands in front of him, but the one-time Plymouth Argyle loanee is keen to start building a club, rather than a team, with a local-first approach.
“We had quite an influx of Plymouth-based players and most of them have either gone with Dan [Hart] or back to the Plymouth area, so it’s quite a bit of a rebuilding job to be honest,” Price told Cornwall Sports Media.
“We’ve got some good young players and I want to make it quite a local group. I want to build a football club here, not just every season we ship players in and we go somewhere else, I want to try and build a local-ish group.
“Obviously we may have to get a few players in, but of a group of 16 I’d say we can have 11 or 12 with a Launceston base, even if we’ve got to have faith in two or three young boys, which we’ve got.”
⚽ Club Announcement ⚽ pic.twitter.com/leCTVbvTFq— Launceston Football Club (@LauncestonAFC) May 16, 2022
The departure of the Plymouth-based players means Price has had his work cut out as he tries to piece together a squad for the start of the season, but the 1984 FA Cup finalist has been able to make a good start.
Forward Mike Steele has rejoined the club from Bodmin Town, while Launceston have been boosted by the availability of both Carl Aldridge, who made one appearance last term, and Gareth Jones, who made the last of his ten appearances in 2021/22 at the end of January.
The Clarets will also be buoyed by the re-signing of prolific scorer Ben Waters, who found the net 19 times in 30 games last season, while Price has high hopes for young right back Mark Wilson, who has been promoted from the reserves.
With those in mind, what does the new Clarets chief feel the team can achieve in his debut campaign?
“You go into a season to hopefully do the best you can,” Price said. “Obviously, I’m new to this and we have a group where seven or eight first-team players have left. We’ve managed to get a few in with a few young lads joining and you would say hopefully we can do as well as we can.
“Every time you play you look to win, but what we’re looking for is to be competitive, sustainable and have a young team that does well for itself. Ideally, I’d like to squeak up into the next league, but will we do that? I’m not sure.
“I’d like to be part of something we can all be proud of, that’s sustainable and got longevity, rather than the merry-go-round.”
He added: “We’ll be OK, I just think we might be a slow-burner in this league. We might well be a team that evolves through the first 15 games of the season, and then we’ll finish as high as we can.”
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First five matches
Sat, Aug 6: Godolphin Atlantic (A) 3pm – League
Tue, Aug 9: Liskeard Athletic (H) 7.30pm – League
Sat, Aug 13: St Blazey (H) 3pm – League
Tue, Aug 16: Dobwalls (A) 7.30pm – League
Sat, Aug 20: Mullion (A) 3pm – League
Last season at a glance
League: 8th in South West Peninsula League Premier West (P:32, W:13, D:7, L:12 – F:49, A:45)
Cornwall Senior Cup: Second round – lost 3-1 at Sticker
Walter C Parson League Cup: Third round – lost 7-6 on pens at Elburton Villa after 2-2 draw
FA Vase: Second qualifying round – lost 2-1 at home to Newton Abbot Spurs
FA Cup: Did not enter
Manager: Neil Price
Chairman: Alan Bradley
Ground: Pennygillam (Pennygillam Way, Pennygillam Industrial Estate, Launceston PL15 7ED)