NON LEAGUE: MARK Stimson is bringing through a new cohort of talented young players after bidding farewell to Mark Onyemah.

The Fleet boss told the Gazette that he gets a “big buzz” out of seeing his young players sign pro-contracts after starting out under him.

Full back Onyemah, 18, signed for League Two side Luton Town last week and, in February, centre back Ricardo Santos, joined League One Peterborough United. And during a tough pre-season, which has seen Fleet take on Portsmouth, Charlton and Dartford, Stimson has been impressed with the youngsters.

During Thurrock’s 2-0 defeat to Pompey last week, Lamar Reynolds, 18, signed from Barking two weeks ago, shone down the right wing. And against Charlton a week earlier, former Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Coventry City trainee, Tarik Moore-Azille, was impressive at centre-half.

Stimson said: “It’s not so much I like young players as I like to give youngsters an opportunity.

“I don’t think as a football nation we do that enough and also it’s finances – if someone said look there’s three times more money, go and get the player who has played 200 times at this level and knows it inside out, that would make life a lot easier. But we haven’t. I do get a big buzz out of seeing Mark Onyemah and Ricardo Santos now playing for Luton and Peterborough. So it works both ways.”

“We know what we’ve got now, we’re happy with that and we’ve got more younger players with good potential, it’s just whether they can man up and be ready for that physical challenge.”

Fleet are yet to win during pre-season. On Sunday, they were edged out 2-1 by Ryman Premier side AFC Hornchurch. But Stimmo remains confident – and wants to return to the Ryman Premier League after just missing out on a play-off place last season.

But replacing David Knight, who scored a staggering 52 goals for Thurrock last season, is still on Stimson’s to-do-list.

“Every manager is always looking to strengthen,” Stimson said. “And always looking at the top end of the pitch because if you’ve got goal-scorers, like we had one last year with David Knight, it gives you an opportunity but we’re happy with what we’ve got and just want the season to start.”

Thurrock kick off their Ryman One North campaign away to Brentwood on August 9. For a report of Thurrock vs Portsmouth and reaction from centre back Simon King, go to our website.