St Albans City hope to add ex-QPR and Chelsea front man as new season kick-off looms

Club ready for Southern Premier Division kick-off

A NEW era at St Albans City begins at Clarence Park this Saturday as the new Southern Premier Division season gets underway.

A lot has changed over the summer, including a facelift of the Park and the introduction of a new management team, and the time has finally come to see that work put to the test, starting with Saturday’s visit of Cirencester Town.

Manager David Howell has built a squad from scratch, boosted by the addition of Rob Magwood and Craig Davies earlier this week, and the new City supremo says his squad-building won’t stop there.

The City boss used the social networking site Twitter to reveal that former Chelsea and QPR striker Paul Furlong had been training with the club and Howell is confident a deal can be done to make the veteran forward a Saint for the coming campaign.

“It’s a good possibility,” Howell told the Herts Advertiser. “Paul trained last night (Tuesday) and he looked fit and sharp. I need to speak to him today but he’s keen to carry on playing and to get through another season which will probably be his last.

“He also wants to do some coaching and I know he’s got the possibility of doing some with QPR, training their kids. So if we can come to some arrangement where he can do that and play for us we will.

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“In terms of playing, I see Paul as back-up to Rob Haworth. I don’t see him as our talismanic front man but what he can do is come into the dressing room and bring that experience.”

Slightly more pressing for the City boss is a new goalkeeper to stand in while first choice stopper Nick Jupp is in China representing Great Britain at the World Student Games.

Phil Carpenter and Nick Bussey were given the chance to impress in last Saturday’s friendly victory over Potters Bar Town and Howell hopes to have his new man on board ahead of the Cirencester game.

“I’ve got to find a goalkeeper who will be with us until the end of August when the other one (Jupp) returns,” explained Howell.

“It’s only problematic in that I haven’t got one but I’ll be looking to get one signed before Saturday.”

The City boss also hopes to pick up a couple of new faces from the scores of players who have failed to win a deal with clubs higher up the pyramid.

“I had three or four new players at training last night,” revealed Howell. “The thing with pre-season is there are a lot of players that go to clubs with higher expectations than the level they are capable of playing at. So there are players that maybe have been training at Conference or Conference South level and now haven’t got a contract and suddenly they’re returning calls that you left back in July. So now it is a matter of getting a couple of those players in.”

Another man looking forward to seeing the league campaign get underway is Saints chairman Ian Ridley.

“It feels like a very long summer,” he told the Herts Advertiser. “I don’t know about the long goodbye, it’s more like the long hello. So much goes on behind the scenes that fans don’t see – and don’t have to see – and it’s busier than it is during the season.

“We’ve had to build a team from scratch and rebuild the club. It’s been a lot of fun and I think we’ve put the enjoyment back in the club. It all started with the first fans forum when 120 people turned up. The goodwill was there to help the club back on its feet and they’ve given us a mandate to turn things around.

“We’re not stupid enough to think it’s finished - we’ve only made a start - but we’ve got the ground looking smarter which John McGowan’s done a good job with and we hope that will attract some people back.

“Lawrence Levy has rebuilt bridges within the community and with local companies.

“We’re starting to sell advertising boards and adverts in the programme, we’ve got people sponsoring matches and the matchball and we’re close to agreeing a shirt sponsorship deal which hopefully will be completed next week, so all those things are coming together.”