Manager Paul Doswell has put the finishing touches to his squad this week in preparation for the start of the new Vanarama National League season at Harrogate on Saturday. After completing the loan signing of striker Aaron Drinan from Ipswich, Paul has agreed terms with midfielder Wayne Brown, who has been playing for Newcastle Jets in Australia's A League for the last two years. However two long-standing favourites Simon Downer and Craig Dundas will not be featuring on the pitch as the new season starts, with Simon, who made nearly 280 appearances for the club, released this week and Craig, who passed his 500th appearance during the pre-season programme, joining Hampton & Richmond Borough, although he will remain at Sutton as fitness coach.
Paul explained the moves. ''Simon struggled with his ankle last season and was restricted to about twenty games, and had another ankle operation in May. We had a long chat at the end of last season and agreed that we'd see if he could get himself fit in pre-season, but he is still in pain and so with regret we've agreed to let him go. Simon's been with me almost since the first days here, and he's been a fantastic player for the club and is hugely respected in the dressing room, but injuries do catch up with you eventually.
With regard to Craig, he's going to stay with us in the week as fitness coach, a role in which he's excelled, but he wants to play regularly and Hampton, where he had a successful season before coming back to us in 2010, have made an approach so he'll play games for them, but I want to emphasise that he's not leaving the club and there'll be a role for him here for as long as I'm at the club. It's right that we try and give the younger players like Josh Taylor, Jonah Ayunga and Tommy Wright as much game time as we can, though, and start to bring them through.''
Paul is delighted, though, to have secured the services of Wayne Brown, who flew in from Australia this week. The midfielder, who will be 30 on Monday, graduated through the Fulham academy and played for Bristol Rovers before a spell in Finland, from where he joined Newcastle Jets in 2016. ''Wayne's from the area and has family in Sutton, and is coming in on a very small wage for the first season. He's a top player who we tried to sign when he was with Bristol Rovers, and will add quality to an already good midfield once his international clearance comes through. With Aaron having joined on loan from Ipswich for not a lot, it's got us exactly where we want to be for the start of the season.''
Paul looked forward to the coming season, after a low-key pre-season schedule. ''It's been a strange pre-season, what with the weather and the World Cup, and odd kick off times, but the one game we took notice of was the one at Dorking, who are well fancied in their league and gave us a competitive game in which we did well. Our only injury concern is Jonah Ayunga, who strained a groin in training on Tuesday, which was disappointing because he's looked really good in pre-season.
I think the league will be stronger this year, when you see some of the financial figures flying around. Our budget puts us about mid-table so if we can finish above that then it will be a success, but we know we're in a fantastic league. As long as clubs are investing in infrastructure as well as players then I've got no problem, and I'm certainly not jealous, because on our day we know we can be as good as anyone in the league, but where some clubs might have an advantage is over a 46 game season with a greater depth of squad, which is why it's so important to have added Wayne and Aaron this week - even in August, with seven games we're going to need everyone playing a part.''