Fan column: Optimism abounds for brand-new Stevenage season
- Credit: Danny Loo/TGS Photo
A new season for Stevenage roared into life with the Carabao Cup, even if the next competitive act is still over a week away when they head to Barrow for day one of the League Two season. But in a semi-regular column, supporter Will Pickworth tells why he is optimistic for what is to come.
“I would like to have a cup run and be in and around the top three for automatic promotion,” beamed Stevenage Chairman Phil Wallace at a fans Q&A back in June 2019.
Fast forward a year and things couldn’t have gone much worse. Just three league wins, four managers, multiple legal battles and a whopping 42 players used, and it is fair to argue that the 2019-2020 season was a disastrous one for Stevenage.
Yet, due to Macclesfield’s repeated failure to pay their bills and their players, along with an inability to fulfil fixtures, which culminated in a 17-point deduction over the season, Stevenage were afforded one of the most remarkable reprieves ever.
Perhaps this was finally justice for 1996, when the Conference winning Boro side were denied promotion to the Football League due to Broadhall Way not meeting league ground requirements.
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Now raring to go ahead of what is sure to be a unique season, Alex Revell’s men are full of optimism for the campaign ahead.
Revell will be flanked by highly-rated coach Mark Sampson, who himself had a period in the Stevenage hot-seat last season, one which often played more like a carousel and even included Graham Westley’s insipid fourth spell at the club.
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Alongside Sampson will be the veteran Lennie Lawrence, brought in as a managerial consultant and a man with over 1,000 games in the dugout. Lawrence has been widely credited with developing young managers including Michael Flynn at Newport County over the past few seasons and Stevenage fans will be hoping he has a similar impact on Revell.
Overseeing two games before coronavirus struck, Revell is a novice in the managerial world. Nevertheless, he represented the team and town in a fine fettle throughout the crisis, involving himself with Stevenage’s Community Careline throughout lockdown.
His popularity as a player ensures the Stevenage fan base will give him time and he impresses with every interview while many new signings have hailed his role in their captures.
Revell has spoken about a clear DNA and playing style, something which hasn’t been the case at Stevenage recently. His introduction of the #GreaterTogether slogan captures the hunger, spirit and pride Stevenage represents as a football club both on and off the pitch, something rarely evident amongst last season’s bloated squad.
Favouring a 4-3-3 formation with inside forwards, Stevenage fans can expect an aggressive, front-footed team with plenty of pace. The recruitment team of Revell, Wallace and the often-castigated Leon Hunter have changed tack from last year’s calamitous signings of experienced league footballers, something which has seldom worked at the club.
Instead, they have reverted to the traditional Stevenage way of signing the best up-and-coming non-league footballers, see Danny Newton, Matty Godden and Tom Pett among others, and those with a point to prove.
Fans will be particularly enthused to see Elliott Osborne, the dynamic goal-scoring centre-midfielder signed from Stockport and Inih Effiong, scorer of 16 goals last season for Dover Athletic.
These exciting talents will be supplemented by the experienced recruits of Luke Prosser, the ex-Colchester captain who will surely form a formidable partnership with Scott Cuthbert. Similarly, hardened midfielder Romain Vincelot will add leadership while Newton extending his contract adds proven League Two quality.
It will be an important year for exciting academy prospects such as Arthur Iontton, Luis Fernandez and Jack Smith who are anticipated to have a big role to play in a condensed season while loan signings Jamie Cumming and Remeao Hutton will add further vibrancy.
A promising performance in their Carabao Cup penalty loss to Portsmouth last weekend demonstrates early signs of positivity and provides something to build on.
While Stevenage were saved from a gigantic financial black hole by avoiding relegation, the new post-COVID football environment is still much unknown.
Yet, with a young, hungry squad and a likeable manager, Stevenage fans head buoyantly into a season which can’t really be much worse than the last.