THE opportunity to return home and play regular football is what persuaded Alex Battle to turn own the offer of a professional contract at Crawley Town and make the switch to Pitching In Southern League newcomers Tavistock for the 2022/23 season.
The 23-year-old former Plymouth Argyle youngster has just left EFL League Two side Crawley Town, where his opportunities have been limited, especially after the departure of Red Devils boss John Yems, who took him to the club last summer.
Battle enjoyed a brilliant pre-season 12 months ago with Crawley, who gave him a one-year deal after a goal-laden trial. But he made only one league appearance as a substitute and one start – in the EFL Trophy – for the club.
Crawley were keen to keep him but, at 23, Battle wants to get back playing regularly and start enjoying his football again, which is why a move to Tavistock is just perfect for Battle.
’I just wanted to come closer to home and start playing a bit more and start enjoying my football a bit more rather than being far away,’ the Plymstock-based forward said. ’I was offered a short-term contract by Crawley, but I decided to turn it down and come back home really.
’I had a good relationship with the manager [Yems[ there and he was the one that gave me the opportunity. But then he left and it was a different situation when he left and that is what changed things for me really. But I didn’t really want to carry on there, I just want to play week in week out, enjoy it and be closer to home.’
Battle was certainly not short of offers on his return to the Westcountry, but his relationship with Lambs boss Stuart Henderson played a big part in him committing to the club.
‘I have known Stu for a long time as I was in his development team when I was younger and he has always believed in me and thought I was a good player,’ Battle added. ’I also know a few of the lads and I just feel it’s the best place to go and where I will enjoy my football the most.
’I am looking forward to working with Stu again. He is easy to get along with and knows what he is talking about. I think he will get the best out in me and that will make me feel better as a player as well.’
Battle played as a trialist in the 4-1 win over Liskeard Athletic on Tuesday night and while he did not score, the unknown number nine certainly caught the eye. He has experience of Southern League football having played for Truro City and he is confident that the Southern League Division One newcomers can be a surprise package this season.
’They are a good team and I hope I can go there, contribute to the team, help them win the league and we go up,’ Battle said. ’I want to be at the top of the league challenging as it is always better to be at the top of the league challenging and looking to go up. We have a lot of very good players and I think we can definitely challenge.
’I played for Tavistock the other night and really enjoyed it. I thought we played a lot of good football, the pitch was really good... I just need to get back to full fitness and I should be flying from there. I can’t wait for the season to start.
’I have done lots of individual work in the summer, but that was the first time I’d done any team work.’
Henderson could not hide his delight at such a marquee signing and said: ’We are ambitious and people say that we are punching above our weight and surviving would be a success, but for me, that acts as motivation because I think we can offer a lot more than that.
’I think it’s a real signing of intent. Goals win games and this side of Bristol and outside of the professional game, there won’t be many more players that will score more goals than Alex, if he’s given the opportunity.
’Alex didn’t get an opportunity when he was at Plymouth. It’s unfortunate because I don’t think he was there at the right time and he may have got more of an opportunity under Ryan Lowe or Steven Schumacher.
‘He then went to Bolton and they liked him and offered a two-year contract, they then had an embargo and couldn’t sign him. He then went down to Truro and did well and then had the opportunity with Crawley, but now they have changed their manager.
’He’s had no luck whatsoever and I think he feels fed up of being on the fringes of something and he’s now at an age where he feels he just wants to play, be a part of something and be an integral player, enjoy his football and score goals and fall back in love with football again.
’I don’t think people realise how difficult it is when you are a young player, living away from home and you are not involved with the first team... but you do everything that’s asked of you and train all week but you don’t get the opportunity.
’Wherever Alex has gone, he has scored goals and done what’s been asked of him and more, but he doesn’t get the breaks that young players need. He wants to be loved and he will be with Tavi. I rate him very highly and I know what he’s all about and I am sure he will be a fantastic signing for this football club.’