Greens boss Stephenson cannot wait for the new season
Bethnal Green United chief looking forward to a new era at the club
New Bethnal Green United boss Anton Stephenson is excited about the Greens’ new season, which starts next Tuesday, when the team make the journey to Barking FC for their opening Essex Senior League fixture.
The club was left in a state of uncertainty at the end of last season, with caretaker boss Kirk Whitelock leaving the club, but Stephenson was swiftly appointed as player-manager and the striker can’t wait for the season to begin.
“It has been a summer of change at Bethnal Green United, there is no denying that,” said Stephenson.
“We have had 16 new players join the club, including some that left and have then returned again, so we are all still getting to know each other.
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“But the team is gelling nicely and they are where I expect them to be at this stage of pre-season.”
However, it isn’t just playing personnel that has changed at the club, with Stephenson quick to bring in an assistant boss to work alongside.
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“I have managed to bring in Anthony Gradley, who is an excellent coach, and he has experience of working in the professional game, having just finished coaching Leyton Orient’s under-16s,” said Stephenson.
“As a whole club we are going in the right direction and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
In their last campaign, Bethnal Green started strongly before moving towards the summit of the Essex Senior League in the new year, combined with an excellent run in the FA Vase, reaching the last 16 before being knocked out by eventual winners Dunstan UTS.
However, when manager Justin Gardner moved to Aveley, the Greens endured a change of fortunes on the pitch, as Whitelock failed to win his first seven games.
In the end, Bethnal Green limped to ninth place, some 31 points behind champions Witham Town.
But this season, Stephenson is setting his sights a lot higher.
“We are aiming to win the league this year,” he said. “I know many teams will say that every season, but we are serious and we will be disappointed if we are not up there come the end of the season.
“We are expecting big things this season and this squad has the most ability I have ever seen in my time at the club.
“The team spirit is building, but the lads have only been training together for the past eight weeks. I am sure that will come.”
United will be captained this season by new recruit Bradley Nelson, a striker who Stephenson knows well from his time at other clubs.
“Bradley is a good player and a good leader and he is the right choice to captain us this season,” said Stephenson.
“I know him from his time at Eton Manor and Tilbury and he possesses the type of leadership qualities that we need.”
Stephenson’s men open their league campaign with a trip to Barking on Tuesday evening, and the Greens boss is expecting a tough test in Essex.
“Barking have always been a big, physical side and it will be interesting to see how the lads cope with that,” he added.
“We are a real footballing team and like to see the game played properly and have a style of play that we will stick to.
“Hopefully that stands us in good stead for the season ahead.”