Beckles poised to replace departed Martin

Omar Beckles. Picture: Bob Walkley

Omar Beckles. Picture: Bob Walkley - Credit: Archant

James Gray has hinted that Omar Beckles could be the man to replace Ben Martin at the heart of St Albans City’s defence for this season and beyond.

Martin, who helped the club earn promotion last season, left the Saints to join Vanarama Conference South rivals Boreham Wood on Friday in a move that surprised many.

“Boreham Wood are top of the league and were desperate to get him in to help them get out of this league. They’re in a good position and behind the scenes it is a healthy club – he felt it was right for him,” explained Gray.

“[His departure] opens the door for other lads. Basically, this season was about stabilising the club in the Conference South and learning as much as we can. Benny could be a big loss but on the other hand, when one door closes, another opens.

The door is now open for Beckles, 23, who joined City from Hornchurch after impressing in the 5-3 win over Cheshunt in the Herts Senior Cup, to stake his claim for a starting role. So far, he has played in front of the back four, but Gray sees him as a possible successor to Martin.

“We have deployed him in holding defensive midfield but I feel he could be the future centre-half to replace Benny,” said Gray.

“We’ve also got Darren Locke, who is just back from injury, and James Kaloczi, who we feel will be a real asset, will get his chance when he comes back from loan.”

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Speaking about losing his captain at the mid-point of the season, Gray, who insisted it was not because of a cut in the club’s playing budget, added: “It’s a big loss losing him at this stage of the season, but it’s well known we’re trying to get the age of the squad down and plan for the next two or three years.

“Boreham Wood made an approach and offered him a deal. He felt it was good deal and the right time to make another move. I think it has worked out well for both parties – it helps us with planning going forward.”

Martin had drawn criticism online for his recent performances but the manager doesn’t believe it was a factor in the 32-year-old’s decision to leave.

“I can’t say 100 per cent but it’s not good to hear your own supporters being negative about you. Personally, I think he had a great season for us.”