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Callum targets triple century as new Kingfishers captain insists Thatcham will take it game-by-game in bid for late surge towards play-offs

Experienced Thatcham Town midfielder Callum Willmoth is hoping to bring up 300 Kingfishers appearances after he was named club captain.

Willmoth, who has turned out almost 230 times for Thatcham across three spells, was given the armband after former skipper Nathan Jones left to join Isthmian League South Central play-off chasers Marlow.

And Willmoth – a local lad and larger-than-life character – admitted he was honoured to be chosen for the role by boss Yashwa Romeo.

Experienced Thatcham Town midfielder Callum Willmoth says he’s honoured to have been made Kingfishers captain
Experienced Thatcham Town midfielder Callum Willmoth says he’s honoured to have been made Kingfishers captain

“I’ve been buzzing with the news,” he said.

“To be trusted with it by Yash and the rest of the coaching staff is an honour. To lead the boys on and off the pitch is a privilege.

“It’s an important club to me, I’m a local lad. I live in Thatcham and I’ve played for them over 225 times.

“It’s something I’m hopefully going to thrive off and we can help the team kick on even more.”

Willmoth’s experience is more important than ever after the departure of Jones was swiftly followed by the news that Curtis Angell – who played with Willmoth for Hungerford Town in the National League South – was leaving to join Basingstoke.

The versatile 32-year-old defender was part of Thatcham’s 2018 FA Vase-winning team and returned to the Kingfishers for a second stint in the summer.

Former vice-captain Cameron Rohart-Brown left to join Badshot Lea in September while Josh Edwards, who skippered the side before Jones, departed prior to the new season.

That means the challenge for Willmoth is to lead a side full of potential and talent but slightly lacking in experience – fortunately for the Kingfishers, the tough-tackling midfielder insists it’s one he’ll relish.

He said: “Curtis and Nathan were a big core of the team.

“I’ve played with Curtis for many years and we’re really good pals off the pitch as well. He’s got bags of experience.

“Nathan was club captain, full of energy and bite. He was another really good character in the changing room.

“It adds that extra little bit of pressure but we’ve got other lads capable of stepping up.

“We’re a young squad but we’ve still got some really good heads in the changing room and I’m excited to be given the chance to lead them.”

Thatcham began life without Jones and Angell with a statement 3-0 win over South Park on Saturday.

A spectacular overhead kick from in-form Jordi Ebanda and goals from Sam Tanner and Mo Ceesay helped the Kingfishers cruise to a commanding victory and Willmoth is hoping it will be a sign of things to come.

“I think it was a bit of a statement win,” he said.

“We spoke about the fact that people might’ve been expecting us to fall off a little bit before the game. We used it as motivation.

“We had a real intent to go out there and let people know that we’re still here, we’re still a good team.

“On our day we can give anyone a good game.”

Willmoth made his Kingfishers debut in a 0-0 draw with Gosport Borough in August 2011 and the tireless technician has gone on to become a firm fan favourite at Waterside Park.

The 32-year-old has been part of some stellar squads, scoring 11 goals while playing on the wing in the 2015/16 campaign and winning the player-of-the-season award three times.

After a stop-start beginning to the campaign, the current crop – who underwent wholesale changes over the summer – have hit their stride, propelling the Kingfishers into the top 10.

And the charismatic, spirited and talismanic Thatcham stalwart feels this group of players are amongst the best he’s been involved with.

He said: “We were a bit up-and-down at the start but I think the team was just finding its feet.

“We had a big turnover of players in the summer and a lot of new lads needing to settle in.

“Now we’ve found our winning formula and there’s some serious talent in the changing room. We might have less experience but we’ve got a lot of young, hungry lads.

“The way some of these young boys move now is making me feel a little bit older than I’d like to admit but it’s a joy to be a part of.”

Willmoth played with manager Yashwa Romeo, who is overseeing his second full season in charge of the Kingfishers, when the current boss was in the twilight of his career.

Romeo, who has done a stellar job since taking over from Jamie Leacock, has established the Kingfishers as a team full of attacking talent in his own image, with Thatcham in with an outside chance of sneaking into the play-offs.

Willmoth admits he’s enjoying the dynamic under Romeo and is backing his former teammate to keep the Kingfishers on an upwards trajectory.

“We’ve got a really good relationship – I played with him many moons ago,” he said.

“We’ve played together, shared many dressing rooms and even a few end-of-season dos, so it’s safe to say I know him pretty well.

“He puts faith in me to do my thing on the pitch and be myself around the place.

“He’s your mate when he needs to be but he’s also the gaffer when he needs to be, he finds a good balance.

“He’s adjusted well into management and he’s doing a good job so far – long may it continue.”

Back-to-back wins have propelled Thatcham up to eighth in the league and 10 points outside the play-offs.

The Kingfishers will need to find some serious form if they’re to sneak into the top five and, while Willmoth maintains that his side are taking it game-by-game, he isn’t ruling out a late charge towards promotion.

He said: “We set ourselves targets, month-to-month and week-to-week.

“If we can hit a run and play like we have done these last few weeks, we’ve got an outside chance of getting in the play-offs.

“That would mean we’ll have to beat the teams in-and-around us but we’ve got the bit between our teeth now and we’re going to go for it.

“Our target is to finish as high up the table as possible and who knows, we might just squeeze in.”

From a personal perspective, Willmoth is hoping he’s got a few more seasons in his legs yet and the battle-hardened veteran is targeting reaching 300 Thatcham appearances before he calls time on his career.

Willmoth is hoping to bring up 300 Thatcham appearances
Willmoth is hoping to bring up 300 Thatcham appearances

“I’d like to think I’ve got a few more in me,” he said.

“I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. A lot of it depends on staying fit – if you can stay clear of injuries, you’ve always got half a chance.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot to give on and off the pitch and Thatcham is a club that’s close to my heart, so I’d love to hit 300 appearances.”

Willmoth is set to move another step closer to bringing up his triple century when the Kingfishers welcome Hartley Wintney to the Mettal Stadium this evening.

The Row are one place above the Kingfishers but Yashwa Romeo’s side have games-in-hand on tonight’s opponents, who have lost their last two.

Willmoth is confident he can lead the side to a third successive victory, which would move Thatcham considerably closer to the play-offs.

He said: “We’re looking forward to it, you always bounce into the next game after a good result.

“It’s a chance to go three points behind them with two games-in-hand.

“We’re looking to back up our recent performances with another good one tonight.”

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