By Terry Phillips
Merthyr Town manager Gavin Williams is working hard to build a competitive squad for the 2020-21 BetVictor Southern Premier League season.
Williams has one of the lowest team budgets at Merthyr’s level, but he has recruited a group he believes will push towards the play-offs.
Former Cardiff City youth striker Eli Phipps is among Merthyr’s new signings and he says: “I can’t wait to get started, it’s been a long time coming after the past couple of months.
“I watched the lads play a few times last season and they played some great football. That’s one of the main things that attracted me to the football club. As for the stadium, it speaks for itself. To have a stadium this big at this level is incredible and I’m now just looking forward to getting out on the field and showing my full potential.
“It’s going to be a tough season, but I’m looking forward to getting my head down, working hard in training and trying to score as many goals as possible.
“The gaffer (Gavin Williams) is a great manager from what I’ve heard. He’s had a brilliant career from playing in the Football League for so many years. I’m really excited to work with him and the rest of the team. I just can’t wait to get up and running”.
Midfield player Eliot Richards has agreed to stay at the club. The former Bristol Rovers and Tranmere Rovers player has made 76 appearances for the Martyrs, scoring 16 goals.
“I’m delighted Eliot has agreed,” said Williams “He is a fantastic player and I look forward to working with him and the rest of the squad soon, in preparation for the upcoming campaign.”
Gavin Williams Admits: Mid-Table Merthyr Ain’t Good Enough Next Time https://t.co/XRIR2SUX8U
— Dai Sport (@Dai_Sport_) May 23, 2020
Former Cinderford Town defender Lee Hartshorn has rejoined the Martyrs. He featured for Newtown and Llanelli Town in the Welsh Premier League, while he has also played for Mangotsfield United in the Southern League.
Teenager Tom Hillman has joined Merthyr from Larkhall. The 19-year-old scored 10 goals in 31 appearances for Bath-based Larkhall in Southern League Division One (South) last season.
Hillman began his career out at Newport County and made his first-team debut on in a 2–1 defeat to Cheltenham Town in an EFL Trophy group stage match at Rodney Parade.
The Welshman told merthyrtownfc.co.uk: “It’s an absolute honour to join a big club like Merthyr. Also, it’s my local club which is, of course, is a big bonus for me.
“When Gavin approached me it was a no brainier as I know how big the club is and the expectations it has. I want to fulfill those during my time here.
“I’m absolutely buzzing to meet up with the boys and get the season off to a good start. Without football, for so long I just can’t wait to get out there and get that match-winning feeling back.
“My aims for the season are to become a regular starter then help the team to as many goals and assists as possible.”
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— The Martyrs (at 🏡) (@MerthyrTownFC) July 24, 2020
Elias Youssef and Jarrad Welch are among other new signings. Youssef made 27 appearances last season for Chippenham Town, has also played for Forest Green Rovers and adds a wealth of experience.
Welch, a 21-year-old Welshman, played for Western-super-Mare before joining Merthyr. He began his career with Cardiff City, progressing through the youth academy, before he signed for Cinderford Town on loan in January 2017.
The new Southern Football League is due to start on Saturday, September 19.
Club secretary Jack Hodgkins says: “The FA strongly recommends a phased return to competitive football, with no fixtures taking place before the end of July.
“During this time competitive training can occur, with groups limited to 30 people including coaches. Competitive matches, including pre-season friendlies, can return from August 1.”
Merthyr Town squad: Kelland Absalom (gk), Jarrad Welch, Elias Youssef, Adam Davies, Lewis Binns, Ismail Yakubu, Corey Jenkins, Eli Phipps, Camden Duncan, Ben Swallow. Dan Summerfield, Eliot Richards, Kerry Morgan, Lee Hartshorn, Tom Hillman.
The Club Shop is back open this weekend 🙌⚫️
— The Martyrs (at 🏡) (@MerthyrTownFC) July 23, 2020
Players who have moved on: Jarrad Wright, Gethyn Hill, Lee Lucas, Ian Traylor, Owain. Jones, Alex Harris (gk).
The Football Association FA have confirmed the teams who will compete in Southern League Premier South during 2020-21.
Southern Premier teams:
1 Beaconsfield Town
2 Chesham United
3 Dorchester Town
5 Gosport Borough
6 Harrow Borough
7 Hartley & Wintney
8 Hayes & Yeading United
10 Merthyr Town FC
11 Metropolitan Police
12 Poole Town
14 Swindon Supermarine
15 Taunton Town
16 Tiverton Town
17 Truro City
18 Walton Casuals
20 Wimborne Town
21 Yate Town
Blackfield & Langley won’t compete in Premier South season due to a voluntary relegation.