Following the exits of club captain Shane Killock and much-hyped striker Ryan Kendall, Ed White argues that the wheels have come off the signs of a settled Harrogate Town.
Just when the season started to feel like it was settling down at the CNG Stadium, the revolving doors in the changing rooms returned to operation.
The mini-run of three successive victories gave signs the team hasn’t totally misplaced the winning habit.
But in the space of five days, two more new faces walked through the doors with club captain Shane Killock and hyped striker Ryan Kendall heading the opposite way. Following Leigh Franks’ loan move to Buxton late last month, and Matt Heath and Luke Dean’s temporary moves down to Harrogate Railway, it’s the first action statements of boss Simon Weaver admitting he made mistakes with his squad. Colin Larkin, Anthony Griffith, Callum Hassan, Jonathan Margetts, Nicky Featherstone have also been in, and then out, in the autumn of 2014.
I said at the end of last season that Town needed a settled environment to push forward. Following more than three years of stability off the field, it’s remarkable such a policy has not been used with the playing staff – and it has been one of the biggest grumbles consistently voiced by the club’s supporters.
In the last three seasons, more than 50 players have come into the Town squad, 19 of which have joined this campaign alone. Similarly, the exit door has waved goodbye to at least 35 men.
Wetherby Road has an arrivals and departures board flickering as much as Harrogate train station.
Such irony, too, that the latest raft of personnel changes came over the weekend the latest edition of the computer game Football Manager was released – where many fans will revamp their own Town squad in the virtual world.
It is the constant player movement that is chastening Town’s progress.
The club only needs to look at the two closest examples to see. A football environment has been built at Station View over the last few years by Harrogate Railway manager Billy Miller with a tight-knit group used to combining with each other. While they remain only a mid-table side, it’s a huge achievement for a side battling budgets ten times their size – none more so than this Saturday’s clash against the Class of 92-backed Salford City. Look south, and I don’t have to go too much into the troubles at Elland Road to show how uncertainty and instability has left a squad without much feeling or cohesion.
The release of Killock of loan to close Vanarama Conference North rivals Guiseley is the most shocking of a long list of recent deals.
Weaver has repeatedly said his captain has a future at the club. In and out of the team this season, the centre-back was dropped following the 5-0 thumping of Brackley earlier this month due to worries over his positional sense.
His replacement, Matt Bloomer, has not put a foot wrong this season, and has added pace next to the quality of Dave McGurk. But, it must be asked, what message does it send to the rest of the squad and the supporters to see the most influential figure in the dressing room sent down the A658 to the club’s biggest rivals? I’m certain not to be the only one baffled.
Further so, his replacement, Luke Shiels, has joined from Worksop Town after performing in the Northern Counties East League Premier – three tiers below.
While Killock is not the quickest and he has had his worrying moments in a Yellow and Black shirt, whenever he started there was an enthusiasm and a belief that Town were secure at the back.
Last season, he was being graded amongst the best in the division – now his potential will be seen elsewhere.
On the other hand, Ryan Kendall’s departure was less of a shock. The forward looked fed up after being asked to do shuttle runs on his own following the 2-1 Stockport County win. His tweet after leaving summed it up. “Can’t wait to be enjoying my football again,” it read. His replacement, Seb Carole, has all the ability and pedigree – but again, he has to make the step up from Northern Counties football (at Knaresborough Town) – following a disjointed season which included his retirement.
I have my predictions to how long Carole’s experiment will last – and the train controller is raising his whistle.