COUNTDOWN TO KICK-OFF: St Albans City are stronger this year - Gray

Billy Medlock skips past Guiseppe Sole, Picture: Leigh Page

Billy Medlock skips past Guiseppe Sole, Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

St Albans City are heading into their first game of the Vanarama National League South with a stronger squad than they had last year, according to joint manager James Gray.

The Saints get the new campaign underway this Saturday at Gosport Borough.

Joint managers Gray and Graham Golds have been busy strengthening the squad over the summer, bringing in Luke Allen from Hemel Hempstead and St Neots Town attacker Lewis Hilliard as well as former captain Ben Martin. They also splashed out on striker Louie Theophanous and defensive midfielder Scott Thomas.

The majority of the work was done at the start of the year, with most of last season’s squad committing to push the club higher than its 13th-placed finish last year.

“I’m confident,” said Gray.

“I know football is not played on paper, but, on paper, with the additions we’ve made, the squad is stronger than we had last season.

“We’ve got a decent squad and if we can keep everyone fit then we’re happy with what we’ve got going into Gosport.”

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It’s hard to argue with Gray’s assessment.

In Joe Welch, Lee Chappell and John Kyriacou, St Albans have arguably the best goalkeeper and full-back tandem in the division, while Darren Locke, Martin and James Comley should be able to deal with most attacks.

Allen will take up an advanced position allowing Sam Corcoran the freedom to be at his creative best and Hilliard, though new to the level, should provide another threat in the final third. Jack Green is also signed up and will hopefully continue to make strides.

Theophanous is the first proven goal threat St Albans have had since John Frendo joined ahead of the Southern League promotion-winning season. Also, in Simon Thomas and Billy Medlock, City have the adaptability to take on most defenders.

All in all, Gray can’t wait to get going, and he knows the players feel the same.

“On Thursday, the boys will come down, take the team photo and get their kit and tracksuits and it will all become real,” he said.

“Pre-season can be monotonous but there will be a real buzz on Saturday. It’ll be a competitive game and three points up for grabs.

“We did well down there last season [won 2-1] and hopefully we’ll do the same.”