Non League Daily

Millers Bring In Five

Justin Gardner, manager of Ryman League Division One North club Aveley, has confirmed the signing of five new players into his squad ahead of the 2013/14 season.

Anton Stephenson, Jake McIntyre, Marlon Boateng, Siao Levi Blackwood and Michael Begg (pictured) have all put pen to paper with the Millers as Gardner's squad begins to take shape with the new season just three and a half weeks away.

All five of them made appearances in Aveley's opening pre-season game with Southminster on Saturday with Gardner expecting to announce one or two more signings in the coming days after friendlies with Corinthians and Erith Town.

Anton Stephenson is a player that Gardner knows particularly well after being a star performer for the Millers boss at his former club, Bethnal Green United.

Stephenson last season was player-manager at the side now known as Tower Hamlets FC and was an important figure for Gardner in his time at Bethnal, with Gardner describing the former Tilbury and Thurrock striker as "someone I trust will help me on and off the pitch". Stephenson takes up the role of player-coach.

Jake McIntyre is an exciting new addition to the Millers squad having joined Gardner's side after recently being released by Conference Premier side Dartford.

The versatile defender, 18, can play centre back, left back and as a defensive midfielder, with Gardner saying: "His versatility could prove to be a vital asset to our squad throughout the season."

Marlon Boateng is another player who Gardner knows well from his time at Bethnal Green, but the winger has been out of football for a couple of years now.

Gardner has convinced the former Waltham Forest player to lace up his boots once more and join the Millers in their attempt for promotion back to the Ryman League Premier Division. The manager said that Boateng is "someone I highly rate", before saying: "If we can get him back to his best then he will be a great asset to us."

Siao Levi Blackwood's signing, having joined from Three Bridges, was also confirmed by Gardner as he looks to replace the departed Sheldon Sellears at right back.

Blackwood, who was previously on the books at League Two club AFC Wimbledon, prefers to play in midfield but was deployed at right back for the match against Southminster, with Gardner saying he's "another player with great versatility".

The manager went on: "He's a player that I watched a couple of times last season and I like players who are versatile and can play a number of different positions, and he certainly fits that mould."

Attacking midfielder Michael Begg completes the line-up of new signings for the Millers.

Begg was on trial at Aveley last season, even grabbing himself a goal against this coming Saturday's opponents, Corinthians.

This season Gardner has managed to get Begg to sign with the Millers, with the former Concord Rangers player admitting that he has "something to prove to himself" according to Gardner, having played in a "comfort zone" in recent years.

Begg will be fondly remembered at former club Concord Rangers, having played a huge part in the now Conference South side's history, helping them climb through the Essex Senior League and through the Ryman League.

He's another player that Gardner has known for a very long time, with Gardner saying he "should have been playing at this level or even higher by now" before adding: "Michael Begg at his best is a top, top player."

Overall Gardner is pleased and excited with how his squad is taking shape as the Millers edge closer to the new season, saying that patience has been the key having previously said that he was looking for quality over quantity, with only three new signings being announced prior to this week.

The Aveley manager said: "If I'm honest, there were only four players of the nine or so that left who I didn't want to lose, but having lost nine or so it's been a big task rebuilding this squad.

"But, I feel in this moment in time we're in a stronger position now than what we were 12 months ago."


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