Gray stays coy about City's true Conference South ambitions
PUBLISHED: 11:48 03 July 2014
To everyone outside the St Albans City dressing room, staying in the Conference South is the aim for the upcoming season. Inside it, though, is a different matter.
The team reported to Clarence Park on Saturday for their first training session of pre-season, officially bringing an end to the celebrations of promotion-winning campaign.
Just 59 days ago City capped off a superb 2013/14 campaign with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Chesham United to be crowded Southern League play-off winners and earn a spot in the Conference South.
The step up will undoubtedly have its pitfalls for City so Gray has set a realistic target of avoiding relegation, at least that is what he’s saying to those on the outside looking in.
“To stay in the division [is the aim]; that is the natural progression,” he told the Herts Ad.
“Inside the dressing room we will be setting the players individual targets so they have something to reach for. As a player, if the manager sets you a target then it’s always in the back of your mind and you aim to achieve it.”
He added: “As a club we want is to establish ourselves in the Conference South but inside the dressing room we will be asking for a lot more.”
Gray and Graham Golds have strengthened their side with the additions of John Kyriacou, Loick Pires, Joe Welch and Lee Clarke and have re-signed the majority of last season’s squad.
Gray has a couple of targets that he is hoping to bring in but he is not expecting the bevy of comings and goings that characterised last year pre-season.
In fact, he is quietly confident about his squad.
“It’s a fresh challenge for us,” said Gray.
“Some of the lads may have dropped down a league to play for St Albans last season but they still have a lot to prove, we all do.
“We have got a 20-man squad with an average age of 24 or 25. That was something we wanted to do, bring the age down. This squad could spend the next two or three years together.”
Amongst the chaos on the pitch after the final whistle at Chesham, the club’s owner Lawrence Levy stated that promotion was the first building block for St Albans City, rather than the last.
With plans for a new stadium in the pipeline and the club building a sustainable infrastructure, Gray knows on-the-field progress must that going on off it.
“We probably got promotion a year before we had planned to,” he conceded.
“We all still have something to prove and we need to step up with the club. There are things going on behind the scenes, like the new ground, so we have to progress on the pitch.
“We’re looking to progress over the next three years and challenge for the Conference title and put ourselves back in the picture.”
Since putting themselves back in the Conference picture, the team has been to Marbella together and revelled in their achievements but the hard work in ensuring the Conference South does not overwhelm them is now underway.