Competition for places is key for Bideford says Sean Joyce
THE BENEFITS of the squad game have been clear for Bideford with their success in the Evo-Stik League Southern.
A settled group of players have helped the Robins rise from the Toolstation Western League to the Southern premier since 2010.
Competition for places is important at any level but it means Sean Joyce, the manager, has tough decisions to make every week on selections.
All 16 players will feel they merit a place in the starting line-up and Joyce has urged those on the sidelines to show patience.
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The strength of the back-up was seen in the stunning7-1 win at Chippenham Town on Saturday.
Having spent plenty of time warming the bench this season, James Richards impressed on his return. The right back was recalled after Ian Sampson was unwell and unable to travel.
Richard Groves is another player who has patiently waited for his chance.
The former Weymouth player has found it hard to displace Matt Hockley and Matt Bye in midfield but has performed well when given a chance.
His display in the 3-2 win over Hemel Hempstead Town in December, was arguably one of Bideford's best individual efforts of the season.
Hockley, the captain, knows how difficult it is to hold down in a place when, having signed in 2009, he was unable to get in ahead of veteran Ian Down for the first year.
"I try to explain to these boys, it's not personal," said Joyce.
"Hockers sat on the bench for his first season in the Western League and he played 250 games for Torquay United.
"Matt Andrew, in his first year, sat on the bench in his first 12 games. It's the same with Nick Barker.
"They either stick at it and take on board what we are trying to do, or they move on."
Jamie Mudge, a clinical goal scorer, moved on last season because he was frustrated at not being able to hold down a starting place.
But the success of recent seasons has come with a group of hungry, young players staying together.
With the re-signing of Ben Wood from Frome Town, Bideford are operating with the same squad that finished last season as champions of first division south and west.
As well as continuity, Joyce believes versatility is the other major strength of his squad.
"I went back in for Woody because he knows how we play, he knows the set-up and he knows the work ethic we have got is second to none," said Joyce.
"Frome played him on the left wing and that's it.
"For us he's played left wing, left back, left wing back and up front.
"That's what will keep us in this league – being able to adapt.
"Players can change positions two or three times in a game if need be.
"If the shape needs working on, we can change it without making a sub.
"These lads have been with me that long, they will do it and not question me."