Saints ready to kick-off season at Banbury United

ST ALBANS City begin their promotion assault on the Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division having added the firepower of ex-Premier League striker Barry Hayles to their ranks.

The Saints kick-off the campaign on Saturday away at Banbury United before hosting Cambridge City on Tuesday night in their first home game.

Ahead of his second season in charge, manager David Howell told The Herts Advertiser: “It’s no secret that the club really is looking to get back in the Conference, but the first thing we need to do is get out of the Southern Premier.

“I took the job with the aim of getting the club promoted within three years and back in the Conference in five.”

In the past 10 days ex-Fulham man Hayles, experienced midfielder Gareth Risbridger and central defender Curtis Ujah have put pen to paper at the club while keeper Nick Hardy has re-signed.

Another to join this week is local teenager Layne Eadie, the Harpenden youngster is a product of the Oaklands youth academy.

With that bunch added to the existing squad and fellow summer recruits Danny Gordon, Richard Graham and striker Lewis Toomey, Howell believes his side are well equipped for the challenges ahead.

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“For me we have been working diligently to bring in the right players and not just to make headlines,” he said. “Hopefully that will show in the early part of the season.”

Also remaining with the Clarence Park outfit is highly-rated keeper Nick Jupp, who last season trained with the England C squad.

Hayles is the club’s biggest name signing, his League career saw him play more than 600 games and score almost 200 goals, he has more recently been playing for Cornish side Truro City.

Over two seasons, his 26 goals in 63 appearances helped Truro to become champions of the Evo-Stik Premier then keep them in the Blue Square South last season.

Howell added: “He’s still a very fit guy and as well as goals, Barry will bring a lot of nous.

“It means that we now have experience and leadership right through the side, through defence, midfield and attack, to go with the youth and energy we also possess.

“Barry has the potential to be a talisman for us and will hold the ball up front.

“Young Lewis Toomey should certainly benefit from his presence.

“We now have good options in every department.”

Howell is fully aware the season will be a tough, testing one with a host of clubs vying for the promotion places.

“There are plenty of teams that have strengthened and are looking to get out of the division and they all think they have the right to make that claim,” he added.