Belper squad all but complete after four more signings

Steve Ridley
Steve Ridley

Another flurry of signings have all but completed Belper Town’s squad for next season.

Boss Grant Black had another busy week, signing four more players to add to the five already brought in and he is now happy he has a strong enough squad to give the club a chance of the play-offs next time around.

Speedy right back/winger Kyle Bryant, experienced midfielder Steve Ridley, striker Zeph Thomas and a yet-to-be named quality goalkeeper all agreed to join the Nailers this week.

They follow fellow new faces, defenders Phil Watt and Cameron Steel, forwards Jon Froggatt and Charlie Dawes and midfielder Sam Wright into the club.

Manager Black said: “We wanted competition for places and that puts us up to about 18 or 19 players, which is pretty much what we will look to go with now.

“If something pops up that we can’t turn down then we’d be daft not to look at it and take it on. But we won’t be chasing about any more now. We can just wait and see if something comes up that we need.

“We are now in a position as a club where we can look round at the bench and can bring someone on who can influence a game or is just as good as the one you’re bringing off.

“There were times last season when we didn’t have that.

“But the club are in a better position now and are enabling us to do.

“A couple of times last season we got caught short with a small squad.

“We had to carry 16 due to the budget but hopefully we can carry 18 this time and if we have injuries and suspensions we’ll have that cover in place ready to go.”

Of the new players, Black said: “Kyle Bryant played against us for Loughborough Dynamo last season and really gave us a tough time to be honest. So he was someone we identified we wanted.

“He is an attacking full back or winger with lots of pace and good delivery. So he fits into how we want to try to play and we are really happy to have got him in.

“Steve Ridley was player-coach at Alfreton. I have worked with him before and he is going to bring the experience I felt we lacked a little bit of on the pitch last season.

“Sometimes we just needed a voice and someone who could manage games. So that is another really good signing for us.

“There were times in games last season where we were leading and could have maybe nicked at least a point if we’d had someone on the pitch to manage it.

“We feel he will come in and do that for us. Steve is predominantly a central midfielder but can play left back as well.

“But Danny South will remain captain. He took on the role last season and did really well. He is a big character in the dressing room and a strong leader.”

On 29-year-old Saint Kitts and Nevis international forward Thomas, he added: “Zeph played a big part in Brighouse’s promotion-winning season last season, wining the play-offs.

“He is an attacking player who can play down the left side or straight down the middle. He is quick, strong and a good finisher.

“He has scored goals at this level and above for the last six or seven years. He has been at clubs like Mickleover and Matlock and will add more firepower to us.”

With keeper Lee Overton set to face a lay-off with a shoulder problem, Belper have moved quickly to find cover.

Black said: “We will have a keeper to announce soon, but that will be done after the weekend out of respect for his last club. He needs to let them know first what he is doing.

“Lee has now got to have an operation on his shoulder and will be for the foreseeable future so we felt we had to act quickly.

“Until they get into the shoulder and see the actual extent of the damage, we won’t know. But it could be a long term one.

“So we have brought in a really good, experienced keeper from this level which we absolutely are over the moon with.”

Black is delighted to have Belper’s business all but complete so early this summer.

“It’s been a learning experience for us,” he admitted.

“We had a lot of outgoings last year and it went into pre-season when we were bringing people in and you can’t work on things as much as you want.

“We had a bit of a slow start for the first five or six games and from then on, on our form, I think we’d have finished third. But due to the slow start we were always playing catch-up, which we don’t want to be doing this season.

“So we wanted to get the signings done and from 29th June when we start back, we are working with what we have got to work with and preparing to hit the ground running.”