Hellenic League Preview: Ascot United FCBy Adam Lee
August 01, 2012
Now is the time for sleeping giant Ascot to awaken
Although the club will insist the three seasons since they won promotion into the Hellenic Premier Division have been of consolidation, from the outside, it would seem they have been more about stagnation.
With impressive facilities, no lack of budget and a youth set up to rival any amateur club in the country, Ascot must now start producing.
Manager Jeff Lamb and his assistant Paul McGrotty’s first season in charge was a steep learning curve, and murmurings from within the club suggest they are better prepared to deal with the challenges of Hellenic Premier Division football this season.
They have set their sights high and want a top-eight finish this year before pushing on for promotion to the Southern League the season after.
And with the signings they have made in the close season, in particular the experienced central midfield partnership of Sam Waddieh and Jack Smillie, they have a duo who can certainly take games by the scruff of the neck.
Although former Fleet Town, Uxbridge and Thatcham player Smillie, son of former Reading player Neil, did play for the last half a dozen games last season, his decision to stay on at the Racecourse has been regarded as the equivalent of a new signing.
The two will have big boots to fill following the departure of long-serving club captain Tim Standing, who has moved to London, but the atmosphere within the club is certainly a positive one as the new season approaches.
However, should they realise their potential, a good start is essential, and Ascot certainly haven’t been dealt a nice hand.
With Marlow, Oxford City Nomads, Binfield, Wokingham & Emmbrook, Thame United and Witney Town among their early challenges, Lamb’s men must hit the ground running.
McGrotty insists Ascot are ‘not scared’ of any team in the division, and they will need that fearlessness in order to come through their opening fixtures unscathed. Indeed, the first two months will be a huge test of their credentials, but Ascot certainly have the talent to pull a few surprises.
Last season: 14th in the Hellenic Premier Division.
Prediction for this season: The time has come for Ascot to step up to the plate and begin to realise their potential. With the players they have brought in, things look set to improve at the Racecourse Ground – 7th.
Players in: Sam Waddieh, Dave Hoar, Joe Yeates, Adam Kennedy
Players Out: Tim Standing, Tim Cousins, Nick Curtis.
Key player: Jon Bennett: With more than 200 senior goals to his name in Ascot yellow, the club stalwart’s decision to remain at the club for another season was a huge boost. Goalscorers are invaluable, and Bennett certainly knows where the net is. Expect him to be pushing the 35-goal mark come May.
One to watch: Luke Wilson: With Ascot’s remarkable youth set-up, it was only a matter of time before it started paying divideds, and hopes are high that 17-year-old Wilson, brother of another Allied Counties graduate Jessie, will make an impact this season. A fast, tricky and direct centre forward who makes himself a real nuisance for defenders.
First match: Marlow (a) Tuesday, August 7.