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Excitement builds for Eton Manor with AGP surface all ready to go at New Wilderness

PUBLISHED: 15:00 29 August 2018

Work started on Eton Manor's new AGP pitch back in February (pic: Martin Pearl).

Work started on Eton Manor's new AGP pitch back in February (pic: Martin Pearl).

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In an article from our 'Engage' supplement, head coach Jamie Connors previews the new London One North season

Work started on Eton Manor's new AGP pitch back in February (pic: Martin Pearl).Work started on Eton Manor's new AGP pitch back in February (pic: Martin Pearl).

It has been all change over at Eton Manor this summer, yet not when it comes to the playing or coaching or playing staff, but regarding the New Wilderness pitch!

Back in February work started at the Wanstead-based club to install an Artificial Grass Pitch (AGP) and, after months of hard work, it is all ready to go.

Towards the end of the 2017/18 campaign, excitement began to increase at Manor about some of the doors the new surface may open in the future for the London One North outfit.

Long-term, it is hoped the team will adapt to the artificial pitch and head coach Jamie Connors can then put together another squad capable of returning to the National League Three South.

For now, Manor will just hope for some nice weather when they hold their AGP Launch Festival on Saturday and Southend Saxons visit the New Wilderness for the first match of the new campaign.

Connors said: “This time of year the AGP pitch will not make too much of a difference because the ground is hard anyway, but when we get to the back end of November and into December and January, that is when we will see the real benefit.

“We will be able to train twice a week subject to snow, but in most weeks we should always be able to train and have good, meaningful training sessions.

“The guys will obviously be quite cold, but they won’t be wet or muddy, so we should get consistent numbers in the winter months and it should help.

“During the last six years I have been here, we’ve hardly been able to train in winter and we’ve had to go over to Redbridge to train on artificial hockey pitches.

“Obviously you can run around on them, but can’t do any contact stuff and then we’ve also had to play home games at clubs like Bancroft, so I think we will see a massive benefit of the artificial pitch in the winter months.”

Manor have also made good use of it now with various new, local players coming to the club this summer to try and get in the first and second teams.

Some of them could go on to be key players in the London One North this season and Connors knows it will be a tricky division to call.

Coming down from the National League are Southend while two of the sides which earned promotion to this level last season – HAC and Rochford Hundred – have big ambitions and are not just there to make up the numbers.

“We have had quite a few local players come in,” Connors said, when discussing the impact of having an AGP pitch at the New Wilderness.

“I’d say we are getting 40 to 50 players at each session and they are all decent first or second-team players.

“We have certainly attracted a few new people for the first team and hopefully the other guys who have come to the club will stay as well and help us.”

Manor have some big plans in place for Saturday’s AGP Launch Festival with three games set to occur throughout the day.

The action will get underway at 12pm when the under-13s take on their Woodford counterparts and an hour later, the under-18 girls will do battle with Basildon.

At 3pm the showpiece event of the festival will take place when Manor get their league campaign underway against Southend.

But once the London One North opener is over, the fun will not stop there, as the club will have a cinema night at some point later in the evening.

It should be an action-packed day and Manor’s first team go into it confident and raring to go even if they have been handed yet another tricky start.

Last season, they began away at Saffron Walden and won 50-29, but their first home contest was with rivals Chingford and Connors’ men lost out 39-5 to a side which would eventually win promotion via a National League play-off.

This year’s opener is equally difficult, but Manor’s fitness in friendlies with Maidstone and HAC has impressed their head coach and he hopes it will enable them to start strongly.

Connors added: “Pre-season has gone pretty well, we have had great numbers and we have been getting used to the new pitch and new facility.

“Obviously it is a little bit different, but the facilities are really good and it is exciting, so we’ve had a good summer.

“I think our fitness levels are maybe slightly above where we were last year, so that’s great and hopefully it makes a difference.”

Manor actually begin the new campaign with three consecutive home fixtures – Southend Saxons (September 1), HAC (September 8) and Fullerians (September 15), so if they are not used to the AGP surface yet, they will be soon!

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