Wealdstone boss Gordon Bartlett loses Jerome Okimo to Stevenage ahead of Conference South opener
- Credit: Archant
Wealdstone manager Gordon Bartlett has been forced to change his plans for the opening Conference South match of the season following Jerome Okimo’s surprise move to League Two side Stevenage.
The Stones face Eastbourne Borough at Grosvenor Vale on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm, and Bartlett admits he did not expect to lose the 26-year-old left-back at this late stage.
‘The timing of his departure has not helped preparations and I have turned away two very good left-backs in the past few weeks knowing that Jerome had already signed,” he said.
“At 26, he probably felt his chance had gone but his attitude, pace, strength and all-round qualities were a massive part of our title-winning side last season and it was bound to get noticed.
“He will be difficult to replace but we must look on this positively as we have helped yet another player to achieve his personal ambition of full-time football.”
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Okimo joins a long list of players who have gone on to play professionally after successful spells at Wealdstone and will link up with Tom Pett who joined Stevenage from the Stones in June.
Bartlett said: “Losing two players to the professional ranks is a big blow to the squad and maybe we have been victims of our own success.
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“I believe Jerome has all the attributes to do extremely well and, with Tom Pett settling in well, they could both have an immediate impact.”
Wealdstone lost their last three pre-season matches against Wycombe Wanderers, Braintree Town and Northwood – but Bartlett is not overly concerned.
He said: “The idea of pre-season is to try and give people as many tests as possible. Results don’t matter – performances do.
“Last year our final three games of the season were awful – we lost 4-0 against Uxbridge in our last pre-season game and we won the league.
“Pre-season is about getting the team prepared right and hopefully hitting the ground running.
“More importantly it is about finding out about personnel, shapes, organisation and what people can do and what people are prepared to do – their characters.
“So you need things to go wrong – it can’t always be plain sailing.
“We feel that we have got a good squad. I think we will carry a squad of 18 to 20 players.
“It is a long old season at a better level.”
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