EAST Thurrock United boss John Coventry has begun strengthening his side as he looks to avoid a repeat of last season’s final day drama.
Rocks only secured their Ryman Premier League status in the final 90 minutes of their season and following the departure of star striker Sam Higgins to Conference South side Bromley, Coventry has moved to replace the striker’s goals.
Forward Emmanuel Osei has joined from Leiston and the highly-rated Jay Leader, a goal scoring centre-back from near-by Ryman One North side Aveley, will also be playing his football at Rookery Hill next campaign.
And Coventry says he is delighted at the two new additions.
“I am really excited about having Leader and Manny join the team,” said Coventry. “Leader is the best central defender at our level and that is something I’ve seen for a long time now.
“Manny will bring to the team a lot of pace, which is something that we have lacked.”
The departure of Higgins, who scored 13 goals in 17 games after re-signing for Rocks from Concord Rangers and became the club’s all time top-scorer in the process, is a blow to East Thurrock but Coventry is grateful for his contribution.
“Sam moves on with my blessing,” he said. “I said when he returned last season how much I appreciated him doing me a favour and he did by scoring the goals that kept us up.”
Coventry is still hopeful of signing another midfielder and two goalkeepers will also have a chance to impress at a trial game towards the end of June.
The Rocks manager also confirmed the majority of last season’s squad have already signed new deals heading into the 2014/15 campaign.
David Hughes, Ryan Sammons, Tom Stephen, Steve Sheehan, Simon Peddie, Connor Witherspoon, Ross Parmenter, Nicky Symons, Mitchell Gilbey, Sam Lechmere, David Bryant and Neil Richmond have all agreed terms.
Aveley boss Justin Gardner was generous in his praise for Leader – and for the loyalty he had shown to the Millers. And he said he did not blame the centre back for making the step up.
Gardner said: “This is a good move for another one of our players. I am glad he made the move and that he chose East Thurrock.
“Covo (John Coventry) does things right, I wish more managers were like him.
“When a player shows loyalty like Leader did for us I will help them in any way I can.
“I really believe he can play at a higher level,” added Gardner.