Fan favourite Tom Bender ‘absolutely desperate’ to win promotion at last with City
- Credit: Danny Loo/TGS Photo
Pre-season may normally be a relaxed time with plenty of jokes but when Tom Bender was asked if the goal for St Albans City this year was the play-offs, the mood got serious in a hurry.
"I'm absolutely desperate to get promotion this year, especially with this club," said the defender who is now the longest-serving player on the books of the Clarence Park side.
The last two National League South campaigns have ended in the same way, with Saints starting superbly before slipping down the rankings and eventually missing out on the end-of-season party on the last day.
Bender said: "I'm sick and tired of just missing out and it's not through a lack of effort.
"We were top and second a couple of years ago around Christmas and then a few boys left and it didn't click in the way we wanted it to during the second half of the season.
"It was the same last season. Sometimes we need some older heads that have been in that situation.
"When things aren't going your way you don't need to panic. Sometimes we tried to work too hard and over-complicate things and when you do that you can make mistakes, even with the simple stuff.
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"We've signed Joe Howe who has a good pedigree and David Noble is the same.
"But I've been in play-offs before and just missed out. I've never been promoted and that's something I'm absolutely desperate to do."
The 26-year-old may get his wish too as he has seen enough over the pre-season games with the new signings to suggest that this year will certainly be different, even if the final outcome may not be.
But he believes a settled side and gameplan could prove key.
"It seems like a bit of a different squad we've got than in recent years," he mused. "We seem a lot more of a footballing side.
"We get the ball down and play good football. There's been a few times we've played the ball out from the back and got a shot in on goal.
"This season we can get a settled side in terms of how we want to play.
"We had a game-plan last year but we also had a lot of injuries and when they happened we couldn't play the same way.
"We've got players now who can interchange and play in a similar way which is a good thing because we can stick to the way we want to play and keep that continuity."
What ever happens though Bender is guaranteed one moment of celebration as he and his fiancee are getting ready for the birth of their second child.
And he is already planning ways around those sleepless nights
"I think my fiancée will have to look after all that," he joked. "I'm sure I can pull strings and say I've got work or football to get out of it."