CHARD Town begin their Toolstation Western League season at home to Longwell Green Sports on Saturday and new manager Jamie Manley is eager to make his mark.

Manley is a former Chard player, and he then went on to play for and manage Sherborne Town; now he takes over at Zembard Lane following Paul Down’s departure at the end of last season.

Manley said: “We’ve settled in really well; [assistant manager] Kevin Leigh and I came to watch a few games last season and met the players.

“Kev and I are really pleased with how everyone at Chard have welcomed us to the club; it’s been fantastic.

“We’ve also brought in a new physio, Robyn Grimes, who’s been fantastic so far and will be a real asset to the club.

“It’s been enjoyable and I’m looking forward to the season starting.”

There have been a few comings and goings over the summer, but the core of last season’s Robins squad remains.

“We’ve kept hold of most of last year’s squad,” Manley said.

“We lost [goalkeeper] Jon Hill to Dorchester Town – we wish him all the best.

“Scott Wells-Burr has come in; he played for me at Sherborne and he’s a good goalkeeper.

“Taoufik Ben Salem has also left; he came to one training session but then drifted off, and I only really want people who want to be at the club.

“Central midfielder Nathan Warren has come back, and I’m glad to have him on board.”

“I’m happy to have Chard players back playing here, and it’s good for the supporters to see those local players.”

In addition, Manley’s squad has been bolstered by winger Tom Salter (from Montacute FC, of the Yeovil & District League), defender Elliott Dyer and two youngsters – midfielder Tom Hargreaves, and 17-year-old striker Jacob Manley.

The manager is happy with his squad, and also with how their friendlies have gone – drawing with Gillingham Town and Somerton Town, and losing out to Plymouth Argyle Reserves, Wellington and Axminster Town.

Manley said: “I’m still on the lookout for players but I’m happy with the squad and the competition for places.

“I’ve chopped and changed the team during pre-season, as I have a lot of players to look at.

“I’ve seen improvement as the games have gone on, though it’s hard with the availability of players at this time of year.

“We’ll know more six or seven games into the season, and we can make changes then if necessary – but, hopefully, the lads will be good enough.”

The Robins begin their First Division campaign against Longwell Green Sports (relegated from the Premier Division last season) at Zembard Lane this Saturday (August 4, ko 3pm), before going to Sherborne Town next Wednesday (August 8, ko 7.30pm) and then hosting Wincanton Town the following Saturday.

Manley added: “It’s three tough games, with a team from the league above and two derby matches, up first – it certainly won’t be easy.

“We won’t have everyone available, but other teams will be in the same boat.

“We’ll give it our all and, hopefully, that will be enough to pick up some wins.”

So what can Chard Town fans expect to see from their side this season?

“I want us to play on the front foot, with plenty of energy and work rate,” Manley said.

“I expect 100 per cent from the players, as I always gave 100 per cent when I played.

“I want us to get the ball down and play as much as we can – but we’ve got to work hard to start with, to earn the right to play.

“We’re looking to build a side here – we’re quite settled, with most players staying – and finish as high in the league as we can.

“I want us to enjoy games, and if we can do that, the results will come with it.”

ILMINSTER Town begin their Somerset County League Premier Division campaign next Saturday (August 11) with a trip to Clevedon United.