3:30pm, Mon 27th Jun 2022
Darren Sarll made no secret of his desire to bring in reinforcements following a season for Woking which ended in a 15th place finish.
After home defeats to King’s Lynn and Eastleigh, the newly appointed Cards manager spoke about a “lack of character and mentality” in the squad he inherited in March. It came as no surprise then, that a mere three days after a 0-0 draw at the Technique Stadium to Chesterfield, Woking’s retained list was announced. Sarll chose to release ten players, with only six contracted. A further four players were offered contracts, which meant that at least half of the 20-man squad would be departing.
The first new player through the Laithwaite Community Stadium doors was much anticipated, and it came as no surprise that Luke Wilkinson, a 31-year-old centre back, had agreed to follow Sarll from Yeovil Town to Woking once his contract expired. Wilkinson played under Sarll at Stevenage, and the pair were reunited at Yeovil in the summer of 2019 following the latter’s appointment as manager. The imposing defender has vast EFL experience with the likes of Dagenham and Redbridge, Luton Town, and Stevenage, where he played over 100 games and was a key part of the Yeovil defence that made the National League play-offs under Sarll in 2019-20, finishing fourth. Wilkinson will hope to improve a Woking defence that conceded 61 goals last season.
Sarll went back to a former player once again with the signing of Dan Moss. A 21-year-old tough-tackling full-back, the former Millwall defender comes with a good pedigree and an impressive reputation in the National League. Moss made his professional debut on loan at Yeovil last season, making 26 appearances and developing a good relationship with the club and manager. It was disappointing that he would move on loan to League Two Leyton Orient in January, making just four appearances. When it was announced that he would be released by Millwall following the conclusion of last season, Sarll swooped in to secure his former loanee on a two-year deal. The Woking boss described his second signing of the window as “exactly the type of player that the supporters will connect with through his determination and aggression.”
Ricky Korboa was next to put pen to paper. A strong and quick winger, the 25-year-old joined Woking after a season at League Two newcomers Sutton United. Korboa first earned himself a move to the EFL with Northampton Town in Summer 2020 after a superb seven-year spell at Carshalton Athletic in which he scored 55 goals. It didn’t quite work out for him there, making just 16 appearances before joining Sutton last summer. He made a further 14 appearances and was a key part in the Sutton side that made the Papa John’s Trophy final. He comes to Woking on a two-year deal looking to get regular game time and help push the Cards up the National League table. Sarll said Korboa is “exciting, athletic, creative, and to me, if he can develop his goalscoring ratio, we’ve got a very good player on our hands.” Cards fans will be hoping that Korboa can find the consistency that gave him the opportunity of playing in the EFL.
Ricky Korboa is one of many strong forward options for the Cards in 2022/23
James Daly, a 22-year-old forward, was next through the door. A versatile player with a burst of pace, Daly has spent time in the EFL with Bristol Rovers and, most recently, Stevenage. A product of the Crystal Palace academy, Daly comes to Woking looking to nail down a starting spot and start firing for the Cards. According to Sarll, Daly is “an incredibly determined and left-footed forward who will thrive at Woking with the coaching and opportunities he will get here.” Last season, he made 19 appearances in all competitions, scoring one goal in the Papa John’s Trophy. Daly will look to benefit from regular game time at Woking and find his feet in the National League.
Sarll has also brought back a familiar face to the Laithwaite Community Stadium. Reece Grego-Cox, a player who initially made his debut in a Woking shirt as a fresh-faced 21-year-old from the QPR academy, returns following four years away. During that time, the former Irish Under 21 international has been at Crawley, where he made 77 appearances in four years, despite a horrific knee injury. He also had a successful loan spell at Barnet last season, scoring three goals in thirteen games whilst playing on the wing. Sarll was delighted to finally get hold of a man he said he had pursued as “a long-term target over two or three clubs,” adding “Reece is a huge gauge of the quality of recruitment we are doing and feels like a real coup for the season ahead.” Still only 25, Grego-Cox aims to fulfil the potential and talent that saw him make four Premier League appearances for QPR as a teenager.
35-year-old veteran centre-back Scott Cuthbert, recruited, like Daly, from Stevenage, comes to Woking with 449 EFL appearances under his belt. His former clubs include Swindon Town, Leyton Orient, and Luton Town. Cuthbert was a key part of the Luton team that was promoted into League One in 2017-18 and comes to Woking hoping to taste promotion once again. Sarll is delighted that Cuthbert will be a Card next season and describes the Scotsman as a “huge influence both on and off the pitch” and that he “fits along with our other signings to make the team more of an EFL-type side.”
Sarll’s most recent signing, and possibly the one that has raised the most eyebrows on social media, is 34-year-old striker Padraig Amond. Described by his new manager as “a serial goal-scorer,” Amond (also known as ‘Podge') has a fantastic record in League Two, with his last season being spent on loan at Exeter City, as he helped them gain promotion to League One. He was on loan at the Grecians from Newport County, where in four seasons, he scored 41 league goals, and infamously became an FA Cup cult hero, with goals against Leicester City, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. The last time Podge was in the National League was in 2015-16, when he scored 31 league goals as Grimsby Town was promoted via the playoffs. Podge comes to Woking hoping to add another promotion to his CV, and a 34-year-old being given a two-year deal shows the faith that Sarll has in his Irish striker.
Podge fired Grimsby Town and Exeter City to promotions in 2015/16 and 2021/22
With all seven new signings so far either having Football League experience or potential to develop under Sarll and Ian Dyer’s coaching, it has proven to be an exciting transfer window so far for the Cards. The extension of Anderson, Casey, Ince, Johnson and Roles’ contracts were also key to Sarll’s recruitment strategy. As well as obvious talent amongst the quintet, four boast 264 EFL appearances amongst them, and Casey enters his fifth season as the Cards’ captain with a wealth of experience and leadership.
Along with players who are still under contract, such as Craig Ross, Joe McNerney, and Kyran Lofthouse, Woking fans can look forward to pre-season with a mix of potential and experience on display in upcoming friendlies before the season kicks off on 6th August.