It’s been a case of one Stephen out and another in at Banbridge Town this week.
Goalkeeper Stephen Cairnduff has left the club but manager Ryan Watson has moved quickly to replace the stalwart stopper, bringing back former Town man Stephen Croft.
The Lisburn lad left the club last year after Watson took over and has been playing junior football since his departure from Crystal Park. Now Croft has seized the chance to stake his claim for the number one jersey on his return to Town.
“Stephen played a few games in Championship Two during his last stint at the club and he’s delighted to come back now,” said Banbridge boss Watson.
“He missed the club and is very excited to be back. He has shown that hunger that I want to see from players. He feels he has a point to prove and he’s up for the challenge. It’s great to have him signed up.
“I want players who have the hunger to come and play for us.
“Stephen’s a reliable lad and just needs to step up his training to get fit for the season. He’s chomping at the bit to get going.”
Croft’s predecessor Stephen Cairnduff had been an ever-reliable presence at the back of Town’s defence and toiled with his decision before opting to go through the exit door.
Watson said: “Stephen has been struggling a wee bit with the travelling from Belfast and has decided he wants to find a team closer to home. He took a couple of weeks to think about it and it was a tough decision for him because he enjoyed being at the club. I needed to know though because time is ticking on.”
Town had no senior cover for Cairnduff last season and after this week’s one out, one in transfer between the sticks, Watson is still looking for another keeper.
“I want to get in some competition for Stephen,” he told the ‘LEADER.’
“Last season, we just had Stephen Cairnduff. We didn’t overly need another keeper because he played so well but we want somebody else in now to compete for the place in the team.
Croft is Watson’s first signing of the summer and the boss is keen to pick up players on loan from senior clubs but wants to make sure he’s getting the right men for the task
He said: “I’ve been speaking to a few players. It’s not like it was last year, when I was trying to build a whole team. I’ve missed out on a couple of players who I would have liked to bring in.
“It’s frustrating when players are content to play at a lower level but I want to bring in guys who have the motivation to step up to Championship Two and better themselves.
“I’m constantly keeping an eye out and seeing what’s happening. A lot of young players at Premiership clubs are waiting to see if they will get their chance to make a step up to the first team this season.”
Now Town’s pre-season schedule is fast approaching.
“We’ll start in the last week of June to get a good six weeks before the first match. We want to make training as professional and as enjoyable as we can.”