Ashes get their man as Cleveland signs

Ashes get their man as Cleveland signs

New Saltash United striker Tom Cleveland in action during the Ashes’ 4-1 friendly win against Elburton Villa. Picture: Gary Davies

12th May 2021

By Lee Hall

Saltash United manager Dane Bunney says he’s delighted to have finally got his man after prolific striker Tom Cleveland agreed to join the Western League newcomers.

The Ashes confirmed the arrival of Cleveland last week after the forward played in their recent friendly win against Elburton Villa.

Cleveland has established himself as one of the South West Peninsula League’s hottest properties with Liskeard Athletic, and caught the eye of Bunney last season.

And the Saltash boss believes the arrival of the 24-year-old will be a welcome addition to his squad as they prepare for their return to Western League football after a 26-year absence.

He said: “I saw him play in the first game of the season against Bodmin and he really impressed me. I watched him four or five times last season and thought he was a very good player.

“I did approach him last season but it wasn’t right for him at the time.

“He was meant to be going away this September, but his plans have changed and I’m delighted he’s agreed to join us. He got in touch with us and told me he could play next season and it will be interesting to see how he does.

“Along with Jarrad (Woods, who signed for the club last season) we have some real strength and depth in the squad.”

Cleveland first made a name for himself playing Duchy League football with Stoke Climsland, before making the step up to Peninsula League football with Liskeard.

And now the forward is looking forward to playing at a higher level at Kimberley Stadium, as well as linking up with former Liskeard team-mate Jarrad Woods, who joined the club last season.

He said: “I’m delighted. For me it was the step up and pushing myself in a higher division, I really want to test myself.

“But also, playing against Saltash previously I could tell it was a group of lads who just wanted to enjoy football but win at the same time. This really attracted me to join.

“I’ve played with Jarrad (Woods) at Liskeard for six years and we are best mates, but I’ve also been made to feel super welcome by everyone. They all came up to me and welcomed me to the club which was really kind.

“There’s a little bit of time off now until pre-season starts but we definitely need to become established in the Western League and settle ourselves but also show what Saltash United is all about, which is entertaining Football and that should be our ambition.”

He added: “Personally, I’d love to put some goals in but also learn off other players around me, to develop my game going forwards.

“The test against Middlesbrough is something I’m excited about, and we don’t want to be chasing shadows all game either, so I won’t be writing us off at all!”

With Mike Smith and Neil Slateford leaving the club, Bunney says the arrival of Cleveland, in addition to Woods, and the introduction to the first-team squad of 16-year-old Tyler Lovehomes almost completes his squad for next season, though he says he wants to sign one more player, a striker, which could happen soon, with the player due to hold talks with the club this week.

He said: “I’m hoping to sign one more and then after that I think we’re done. With Mike Smith and Neil Slateford moving on we had to replace them and have similar numbers, and I’m happy with what we’ve managed to do so far.

“Jarrad has yet to play a competitive game for us since joining us last season, he’s a class player and I think our fans are going to like him a lot.

“Tyler Lovehomes has been training with us for a year and now he’ll be a part of the first-team squad on a full-time basis which is really exciting for him.”

After last month’s friendly against Elburton, the Ashes’ squad will now take some time off before returning to pre-season training next month.

With a pre-season friendly against Championship club Middlesbrough already confirmed for Monday July 19, the Ashes hope to confirm more games soon.