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Holmes Blow for Moatmen

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Gary Norton, manager of Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division South newcomers Gresley FC, faces a….

…..battle to keep his Baker Joiner Midland Alliance championship-winning outfit together as he shapes his squad for the new season.

The Moat boss has already lost the services of star midfielder Danny Holmes.

The 25-year-old, who won the Conference title with Burton Albion, has accepted a full-time job training Derby County’s under-16 academy side and is unable to commit to playing on Saturdays.

Discussions are under way with another ex-Burton favourite, winger Marc Goodfellow, as Norton hopes to keep one of the stars of last season at the club.

“We’re in discussions with Marc at the moment as there are a few interested in him,” said Norton. “It’ll be a challenge to keep him.

“He’s training with us and we’ll see what happens over the next week or two.”

The Gresley manager is sorry to have seen Holmes depart, although club secretary Reg Shorthouse will be relieved to see his workload cut after the departure of a player with a colourful disciplinary record.

“It’s a great opportunity for Danny,” said Norton. “He’s still going to sign for us as back-up in an emergency.

“The secretary will be happy as his paperwork will go down!

“Seriously, though, Danny’s a quality player and when he joined us two seasons ago he was instrumental in us winning the East Midlands Counties League.

“He had a similar impact when he joined us last year, too.

“He’s very experienced player and was superb for Gresley.”

Holmes’ central midfield partner from last season, James Jepson, looks like staying at the Moat Ground and should agree a contract in the next week.

“James is just back from holiday,” said Norton. “We had our first discussion with him last night.

“We’re expecting him to sign in the next few days and are expecting no problems there.

“He had a little operation in the summer to trim cartilage in his knee but will be back fit soon.”

Of the other key players last season, defenders Michael Nottingham and Jamie Barrett are considering offers, while striker Dean Oliver has already signed to stay for another season at the club.

“Michael was our only contracted player last season,” said Norton. “He’s agreed in principle to a new one and I just hope he’s as good as his word.

“Jamie’s agreed but not signed and Dean’s signed his, which is good news.

“A good chunk of the first-team squad have put pen to paper.”

Gresley’s squad has returned for pre-season training as they prepare for their first season back in the NPL after superbly winning the Midland Alliance.

Norton and joint manager Martin Rowe are happy with the condition of their players as they get ready for the step up to a division likely to pose a slightly greater challenge.

“It’s nice to be back playing football,” said the Moat boss. “It’s great to see the lads again and see them up for the challenge ahead.

“They’re in pretty good shape — there’s a few pounds extra shared out among the squad and we had a laugh about that.

“But they deserved a good holiday and a few weeks off after winning the title last season.

“Now, they’re all aiming to be 100 per cent fit for the start of the new season.”

Several new faces are expected at the Moat, but Norton is remaining tight-lipped on his targets before they are signed to prevent other clubs moving in and making rival offers.

“There will be a couple of additional signings,” he said. “And we hope to be able to announce them in the next few days.”

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