Club News

Southwark News: Boss makes promise as Fisher kick off pre-season at St Paul’s this weekend

The Fish will be aiming for a SCEFL Premier Division play-off challenge in 2022-23

By Owen Quinn

Fisher get their pre-season under way this Saturday against Basildon United – with boss Ajay Ashanike promising: “I guarantee we look stronger this year”.

The Fish, who will again be competing in the SCEFL Premier Division this season, are set to unveil some new signings this weekend.

With the campaign due to start on July 30, it gives Ashanike just under a month to assess and prepare his squad after a busy off-season.

Ashanike said this pre-season had been “totally different to what we’d normally have, only a few players have moved on so for us it’s all about carrying on that momentum from the end of the last campaign and getting the boys up to speed fitness-wise.

“It’ll be nice to have to only assess a few players rather than six or seven new potential starters.”

Fisher have lost some fan favourites this summer. England six-a-side goalkeeper Tommy Taylor departed along with last season’s top-scorer Isaac Thompson. Both players will be moving to higher divisions but rather than feel disappointed at losing two key players, Ashanike is proud of them. He said: “They’re a credit to themselves and a credit to my coaching team. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.”

Ashanike has wasted no time in strengthening the goalkeeping department with the signing of former Leyton Orient stopper Sam Amedu, whom he managed at Tower Hamlets.

Fisher have also brought in Lee McKnight, who comes with great pedigree having been at Colchester United five years ago.

Ashanike also wants to add a left-back to the squad.

Thompson is sure to be a big loss, but Ashanike is confident he can be replaced. “We’ve got two players we believe can mirror how Isaac operated for us in the attacking third,” Ashanike said. “And pre-season gives us a great chance to look at which of the two is best suited for replicating what Isaac did for us last year.”

Ashanike was in a buoyant mood when discussing the closed season, chuckling as he said: “I’ve gone quiet on Twitter where I’d usually be announcing players joining and re-signing and I think some fans are worried about whether or not we have any players. But I can guarantee we look stronger this year and I can’t wait for Saturday to reveal the squad to them all.”

Ashanike explained the lack of updates on social media, with some Fisher supporters perhaps wondering about the strength of the squad heading into 2022-23.

“The more noise you make the more attention you bring,” Ashanike said. “We’ve done well to keep the players we have, and I didn’t want to reveal too much and allow clubs to start throwing money at some of our players.”

Last season’s top two, Chatham Town and Sheppey United, were well known to have strong budgets. Ashanike doesn’t have a playing budget but is happy with that situation. Recently relegated Whitstable are another side likely to offer players money to play, along with Phoenix Sports who Ashanike expects to be in the mix for promotion.

But Ashanike believes the league is “wide open”. Last season, Fisher targeted a top-ten finish but missed out by just a couple of points, ending up in thirteenth.

They had a superb final month, winning four and drawing two of their last six games. Ashanike isn’t looking too far ahead, emphasising the focus is to be “as competitive as we can every week”.

With this game-by-game attitude in mind, Ashanike and his squad haven’t set goals for the season. Instead, Ashanike says: “We’ve sat as a team and looked at the end of last season and realised we operate best when we go game by game with less pressure, so we’ll be looking to do that and be competitive in every game.”

Fisher fans can get a first glimpse of their new-look side this Saturday. Kick-off at St Paul’s in Rotherhithe is 3pm with gates opening at 1.30pm.

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