CONCORD are close to completing a deal to bring in former Charlton Athletic striker Tosan Popo ahead of their season opener against Bognor Regis Town.
Beachboys manager Danny Cowley has moved quickly to fill the gap left by the health scare for Harry Elmes, who’s having tests after suffering a suspected epileptic fit.
Popo, 19, was a youth at Chelsea and West Ham, and has also had a loan spell at Chelmsford City from the Addicks. Cowley said: “He’s had trials at pro clubs over the summer but it’s not worked out for him.
“So he’s decided to come and perhaps take a step back with us to see if that will allow him to take a couple of steps forward again.
“He will give us some pace up front and stretch opposition defences.
“He’s a good alternative to the type of strikers we already have in Tony Stokes and Jason Hallett.”
Concord will give late fitness tests to defender James White (quad) and midfielder Nicky Cowley (dead leg) ahead of tomorrow’s game.
Midfielder Ben Bowditch has gone out on load to Suffolk-side AFC Sudbury.
Bognor were promoted last season after winning the Ryman One South play-offs.
Cowley says this week’s training sessions have been geared towards nullifying Bognor’s nice passing game, and also preparing for Tuesday’s arduous trip to Lowestoft.
He said: “I went to see Bognor last week because the last time I saw them was probably about seven or eight years ago when I played against them.
“They really try to pass it and play in the right way.
“They’ve got two experienced centre halves, a good player in central midfielder, and a useful left winger.
“But we know it’s important for us to get off to a good start because we did not do that last year, and it left us with a mountain to climb.”
Tilson took over from Glen Alzapiedi this summer and has overseen quite a major overhaul of the Gulls’ squad.
Goalkeeper James Russell, defenders Steve Sheehan, John Easterford, Michael Alaile and Steve Ward, midfielders Alex Rhodes and Albert Levett, and striker Jason Hallett, have all gone from last year’s squad.
Defenders Ashley Miller, Robbie Blackwell, James Hawes and Rickie Hayles, midfielder Ryan Edgar, and strikers Eddie Hart and Bradley Woods-Garness have come in.
Tilson said they would not be offering deals to trialists Richard Halle, Kirk Hudson or Rob Gillman, but said they are considering bringing in Ashlee Jones to compete with Andre Foster for the keeper’s spot. Tilson said he was looking at another centre back on Thursday night, and he could come in and be available for the Wingate game.
“Pre-season has gone well and I’m pleased with how hard they’ve worked,” he said.
“They were a little bit short fitness-wise, and they’re maybe still a touch behind.
“But there have been some good performances and I think we’re ready for Saturday.
“As a player pre-season is a nightmare because you need to build up your fitness but you don’t want to pick up an injury.
“And the weather forecast is for 30 degrees on Saturday, so we’re going to need to keep the ball because it will be hard.”
Billericay Town will make history tomorrow when they host their first-ever game in the Conference South.
Last season's Ryman Premier champions will host Truro City at New Lodge.
Manager Craig Edwards said: "We go into the first game as strong as we can and will look to get off to a good start and get some points on the board early on.”
East Thurrock kick-off their Ryman Premier campaign at home to Kingstonian. Rocks boss John Coventry said: "Last season was out best ever for the club, so it will be hard to top - but we'll try.
"We beat Kingstonian 5-2 on the last day of last season, and it was one of our best performances of the year.
"But I expect this game to be tight, because you don't know which players the teams have brought in over the summer."
In the Essex Senior League, Basildon United have a trip to league-newcomers London Bari, Great Wakering are at Sawbridgeworth Town, Hullbridge Sports host Clapton, and Southend Manor have a trip to Eton Manor.
Bowers & Pitsea staged a second-half fight-back on Wednesday to rescue a point at home to Stansted.
The hosts were 2-0 down at the interval but second-half strikes from Dale Gladden and Dave Huzzey earned them a share of the spoils.
Tomorrow John Doyle's side host Haringey & Waltham Development.