Saturday 31st July 2021
Royal Wootton Bassett Town may well be entering their ninth straight season as a Hellenic League Premier Division side. However, the 2021-22 edition is set to be vastly different to those which have come before.
The FA's belated restructure of the National League System has significantly transformed the division's membership. Of the twenty teams who will kick off their campaigns this coming week, just nine (including Bassett) featured in the division in the curtailed 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. And despite featuring four new Wiltshire rivals in the form of Bradford Town, Calne Town, Corsham Town and Westbury United, Bassett have no recent regular playing history to speak of against the eleven sides who have moved into the division courtesy of the lateral and upwards transfer of teams that has taken place.
For those reasons it certainly would not be an exaggeration to say that this season Bassett are largely entering the unknown.
The tests that Sam Collier's team will face in the coming months could therefore have been approached in one of two ways. The Bassett boss could have used the wholesale change to the division as an excuse to overhaul his team, what with the Hellenic League's catchment area having shifted.
Instead, however, he has stuck with familiar faces.
The key parts of last season's squad have all been retained. Player of the Year winners Sam Ockwell (defender) and Harrison Ellis (goalkeeper) were two names Collier was desperate to retain. The Bassett boss was also keen to keep hold of others from across all areas of the pitch. To that end, defenders Jon Beeden and Adam Corcoran, midfield playmakers Chris Taylor, Gio Wrona and Dave Bampton, attacking midfielders Tommy Ouldridge, Zac Skinner and Bailey Gallagher, and frontman TJ Bohane will all feature again.
The Bassett manager has added strength in depth too though, with the additions of experienced forward Alan Griffin, talented midfielder Gabi Fernandes and defensive players Macauley Dodson, Michael Miller, Luke Cordery and Scott Chilcott.
Indeed, Bassett can count just two real losses from last year - those being the departure of promising young full back George Ford to new league rivals Calne and attacking midfielder Brad Pagliaroli.
It is little surprise that Collier has remained faithful to the group of players who featured throughout last season. After all, in 2020-21 they enjoyed much success on the cup front - the only real form of competitive football where a significant number of matches were able to be played.
With hopes of being able to complete a full season this time around, the aim will be to rekindle that form and translate it into success on the league front too.
That has been something that has eluded Bassett in their current stint in the Hellenic Premier. In the seasons that have been played to a conclusion, Bassett's best placing was tenth in 2018-19. Over the last two years, meanwhile, the team averaged just a point per game in those league fixtures that were played.
That record is one that needs to be improved upon. In the face of a swarm of new opponents, Collier is hoping his squad of familiar faces will rise to that challenge.
An interview with Sam Collier, conducted by Under 10 Blues player Carlos, in which the Bassett boss discusses his side's pre-season preparations and expectations for the season ahead can be viewed on this page.Last modified on Saturday 31st July 2021 at 13:19.