Striker Tom Pope, goalkeeper Alex Brown and midfielder Eddie McDonald join Cottesmore AFC
Cottesmore’s plans for the new campaign are starting to flourish after the re-signing of their top goalscorer from last season and the return of two popular players to the Rutland club.
Prolific striker Tom Pope has pledged his future to the Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division side while goalkeeper Alex Brown and play-maker Eddie McDonald have made welcome returns to Westray Park.
Pope – who plundered 26 goals in just 24 games last season for Rich Giblin’s side having amassed 22 the previous term despite missing some of that campaign through injury – has turned down a number of higher level offers to stay at Cottesmore.
Giblin said: “Tom has had offers coming in at all angles, but he really buys into what we’re trying to do at the club.
“It’s a huge boost for the team that someone of his calibre wants to see the job through because there is still a feeling of unfinished business.
“It’s great to have him with us again because you can’t argue with his scoring record when you look at it.
“A lot of our players have had offers to go higher, but we want to push the club forward and get into the United Counties League which I believe we would have done this season if the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t happened.
“We’re trying to keep the group we had together which is a challenge but you also have to look at what’s out there which you can add in for some competition for places.”
Brown and McDonald both came through the youth ranks at Westray Park as part of the Under 18s side and graduated into the first team before moving on to higher levels.
Brown was with United Counties League Division One side St Andrews last season having played in the same team as McDonald a couple of years previous at Bourne Town.
Giblin added: “Alex has always been a friend of the club ever since his first days with us before he went to a higher level.
“I think the travel in and out of Leicester was getting a bit too much for him last season so this is a good option for him and it adds competition for places.
“Eddie’s got some pedigree as well. He’s had a couple of seasons out for family reasons, but he’s a local lad and it’s a club which he knows and is on his doorstep.
“The most important thing for me was keeping hold of what players we had and then hopefully being able to strengthen on top of that.
“It will give us headaches but hopefully we can find a way of getting the right balance.
“Part of the reason we did so well last season was because we had real depth for the first time in a long time. If lads had knocks then we had a ready-made replacement so it’s all looking positive at the moment.”
Jonny Hotson – who started last season in goal for Cottesmore before sustaining a serious injury – has joined Boston League Premier Division side Northgate Olympic after wanting to find a club closer to his Sleaford home while his replacement last term Alexander Egner travels from Long Eaton each weekend.
Giblin explained: “Jonny's a great keeper and an even better lad, but family comes first so with a heavy heart we have wished him well. He will always be part of the Cottesmore family.
"I’ve also had an open chat with Alex. He was happy to commit to the club but we can’t guarantee anyone a place this season.
“We’ve left it quite open if he wants to go and have a look around closer to his home.
“I think that it’s the right thing to do for Alex because he’s capable of going up a level where he might get some cover for his travel which we can’t do.”
Former Holbeach United, Peterborough Northern Star and Blackstones winger Danny Barker is also training with Cottesmore and is expected to follow Brown and McDonald in penning a return to the Rutland club who are hoping to retain the services of the majority of last season’s squad.
However, Wilson Iron does look set to leave the club and link up with former Cottesmore boss Neil Miller at United Counties League side Holwell Sports while Liam Harper has returned to Harrowby United after a brief spell before the coronavirus pandemic struck last season.
Cottesmore are starting their pre-season programme on Saturday, August 15, with a home friendly against Nottinghamshire Senior League Premier Division side Aslockton and Orston.
They then welcome former Cottesmore boss Simon Daws back to Westray Park with his Bourne Town side on Saturday, August 22.
The new league campaign is set to start in September with Cottesmore facing Hathern in the rearranged League Cup final from last term as a curtain-raiser to the season.
Giblin continued: “We’re in a nice situation squad-wise and we’ve had a lot of players at training which is always a good indication of where we are at.”
The club has also added a reformed Under 18s side to their ranks for this season who will be competing in the Leicester Midweek Floodlit Youth League which is in addition to the Under 11 and Under 12s boys and Under 16 girls team.
Cottesmore also staged their presentation night from last season at the weekend with Pope pocketing the top goalscorer and first team players’ player of the year accolades.
Harry Sabberton was first team manager’s player of the year with Jamie Hunt taking the Development award.
Ash Hibbitt was the Development players’ player of the year with the clubman prizes going to Rob Lewin and Jonny Spencer.