By Joe Harbert
Folkestone boss Neil Cugley admits Ira Jackson’s departure is a blow to his team, although he insists he still has every faith his new-look frontline can fire them to Isthmian Premier glory.
Despite 23-year-old Jackson making the switch to League Two outfit Grimsby Town last week , Invicta moved quickly to help fill the void left by last season’s 26-goal striker.
The Cheriton Road side announced the arrival of striker David Smith from Ashford United just four days later on Saturday – a player Cugley believes, alongside the likes of existing forwards Johan Ter Horst and Roman Campbell, can help get the club into National League South.
“Ira was a man of his word and he always kept me informed,” the 63-year-old said.
“He said if he got the chance to be a full-time footballer on a multi-year contract he would most likely take it, so that was always the arrangement and I’m delighted he’s got the chance he deserves.
“I’m still disappointed he’s gone, because he was a big part of how we played and he’s very hard to replace.
“But we’ve seen at Folkestone in the past players like Harry Smith and Stuart King leave and that’s something you have to take on the chin, because hopefully the players you bring in learn quickly and improve, and that’s how we’ve often done it here.
“Most of my team have played in the league below, and David Smith is one of those alongside others like Scott Heard, Roman Campbell and Sam Hasler that have done that.
“We try and give these players opportunities at a higher standard, and David is one of those who has done well and who we hope we can make a better player.
“He’s not a like-for-like replacement for Ira because he plays more down the middle, whereas Ira was more of a wide man, but Smithy has done really well at holding it up for us and scoring a couple of goals so far, and at 21 we think he’s worth the gamble.
“Of course, I’m still talking to a couple of other players and seeing where it goes, which sounds like an old record, but it’s where we are.
“It’s not easy because we’re quite tucked away down here, so finances often play a part in players choosing whether to come but I’ve got used to that over the years, so if we get the players that make our team better, then I’m always happy with that.”
With four wins from their five pre-season games, including a 3-1 triumph at Faversham on Tuesday night, the coastal squad have made a positive start in their preparations for the new campaign.
When asked about the performances he felt his team have been showing, Cugley replied: “Everyone has looked impressive at different stages.
“We weren’t at our best against Faversham – they made it a hard game for us by defending well, but we haven’t played badly at all in our games so far.
“Of course it’s still early, and now we all have a date that hopefully we will start the league on, the players will kick on a bit more.
“Such is the modern way of life they all look after themselves now, and barring a bit of a lack of sharpness and getting fit again after injuries, we’re as well prepared as any other year, which, considering what’s happened, is why I’m generally very pleased.”
Invicta are back in action on Saturday with a trip to Sussex to face Hastings, before games at Herne Bay and Whitstable on August 25 and September 1 respectively.
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