Martin Westcott believes Haverhill Borough are well equipped to deal with the loss of towering central defender Cameron Watson.
Watson was almost ever-present in the Borough side last season, playing 44 times in all competitions, scoring twice, as they finished eighth in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division.
The 6ft 4in centre half, who joined Borough in March 2015, signed for Evo-Stick Southern One Central side Histon after playing and scoring in their 2-1 defeat to Cambridge City last Saturday.
His erstwhile manager though, bares no ill will towards Watson, who was also part of the Borough team that won last season’s First Division Knockout Cup and reached the last four of the Suffolk Senior Cup.
He said: “For a player to go up two levels and have an opportunity to play, I’m really pleased for him and he’s got to go and do it.
“I would certainly have done the same at his age. If it doesn’t work out he knows he is always welcome to come back and play. He’s still registered with us.”
The loss of Watson ahead of Borough’s opening matches in the new First Division season, away to Diss Town on Saturday (3pm) and then away to March Town United the following Tuesday (7.45pm) has been offset by the arrival of young central defender Casey Phillips, who last season shone for Hardwick as they came second in the Kershaw Premier League.
Westcott is pleased to have him, saying: “We’ve been speaking with Casey since June, so it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to Cameron leaving, Casey was always going to come in.
“We are very pleased to have Casey joining us and with Cameron going it’s just as well.
If we had not replaced Cameron it would have been a massive loss, he’s good in the air and he’s a good lad to have around the changing room but the fact we’ve brought Casey in has balanced that.
“The squad remains as strong as it was.
“It would have been strengthened if we had Cameron as well, but it has not really been weakened any more by his loss.”
With their new 3G pitch and stadium at the New Croft not expected to be ready until late August, Borough have to play their first five league matches away from home before seeing competitive action at their new home against Whitton United on September 3.
It will be achallenging start, as Westcott knows: “Diss finished above us last year so we know they are a good solid side.
“We drew with them and beat them last year but both games were extremely close and could have gone either way.
“It will be a tough opener.”
Much to Westcott’s disappointment, he will be without midfield playmaker Aaron Forshaw, who has impressed his manager with his pre-season performances and improved fitness levels, for the first handful of matches after he picked up an ankle ligament injury.
New recruit Jake Gilder, signed from Braintree Town Reserves, also misses out for the first couple of matches having picked up an injury, but otherwise Borough have no injury worries.
•Borough have been awarded a £3,000 Grow the Game grant from the Football Foundation to help them form two new teams over the next two seasons, one Sunday side and one younger senior side.