Jim’s thoughts on this season’s squad, now including full squad list (which we omitted to post in error yesterday).
In my last Squad Update I was delighted to be able to confirm the signings of our first four main players in Ash Palmer, Jordan Keane, Connor Dimaio and Frank Mulhern who provided the key positions of commanding central defender, strong versatile defensive midfield player, bright creative midfielder and main central attacker. I also mentioned that we were looking to retain or recruit another attacker and a versatile attacking midfielder.
I was really pleased that meetings and negotiations have gone well with our two main targets for those positions, and for the Club to be able to announce the signings of Jake Kirby and Nyal Bell.
Jake is player well known to many of our fans and provides a real attacking and goal scoring threat off the left side of attack, but he also provides great versatility in being multi-skilled to play in all of the attacking positions, which will be important when we need to shift shape or shift positions to cover other players. Jake like many of our new signings has great experience from this and higher levels and has both a proven ability and the potential to develop further into a really good player.
We are delighted that he has chosen to sign a two-year full time contract, and it again shows the sign of the progress that has been made in the last two seasons and how confidence is being built in our future growth amongst many.
Nyal Bell will be a little less known to our fans but I feel at 21 is starting to show his potential at the National north level. He is taller and has a more physical profile than our other attackers. He has a good range of physical and technical attributes which, we feel, will have an impact in games. He is a very good addition to our front line and will provide a good compliment of attributes to our other attackers and much needed competition for the central attack positions – an aspect which we were keenly aware was missing last season.
Nyal is a Stockport lad who we have been aware of for quite a while. We have been monitoring his progress over the last two seasons whilst he has been plying his trade out of Gateshead FC in both the National and National North through various loans. All the staff that have worked with him previously, or scouts that have seen him, highlight the great potential in Nyal and I trust that our team can help him realise his full ability, and have a big impact in the game at his hometown Club.
We now have a squad of 20 players which includes 3 young development professionals. The 17 more established first team players ensure a strong base of players to provide a very good first team and a highly competitive squad with great options and depth throughout the group.
Our squad strengthening is never complete and the first team is, and will always be, a work in progress. We are still considering further signings that improve the group, provide further depth or change the profile of the playing staff further towards more committed full time professionals.
Myself, the staff and the new chief Scout Mark are working tirelessly on the important recruitment process at the Club. We will continue to profile the changing needs at the club as we move towards full time players and look to attract the best young professional players.
As it stands I am very pleased at the squad we have assembled and I have a great deal of trust in these players to provide further success to the club in the coming season. We have moved a long way from the ‘part time averageness’ that blighted the first half of last season. We have seen the investment in further training, with the right players, pay off in terms of consistent results over the second half of the season and that has to be recognised, embraced and continued. We know the end of season brings some enforced personal changes that will challenge the continuity of last season’s form. But our success was not one or two players who showed some good patches of form but the collective improvement across the group. I trust in the growth we have seen in so many of our young players, and wish the club to invest further in those players and attract similar. The age and professional profile of our playing staff has changed significantly over this window and I feel that is for the betterment of the future. And with so much work having been done this transfer window the next windows should not see such dramatic changes as we move to an increased full time environment.
That work will continue behind the scenes, but for now our attention in the coming weeks is to continue the player’s off season plans and put in place a good pre-season. We will ensure the best structures, facilities, fitness and coaching schedules are in place to prepare the players for the start of the forthcoming season. We are conscious of the work that has to be done to bring everything together in the next eight weeks for the big start on 4th August 2018. I look forward to that work, and the season ahead with both optimism and growing confidence.