REJUVENATED West Auckland Town FC begin preparations for the new Northern League campaign this week with the first of six scheduled pre-season friendlies.
New manager Gary Forrest has spent a busy few weeks rebuilding the squad, bringing in ten new faces to add to the eight who were retained after last season’s flirtation with relegation.
Mr Forrest said he was happy with the squad he had assembled.
“At the moment, we are not actively looking for anyone else, but if someone comes available who is of interest to us that could change.
“I am delighted with the players we have brought in. They are all in their early to mid 20s, really athletic, quick and they are fit. Very few are injury prone. They will add pace, power and energy to the side.”
Among those who have signed up are Bishop Auckland-born keeper Adam McHugh; Michael McKeown and Denver Morris, who were part of the North Shields FA Vase winning side of 2015, and Amar Purewal, who played under Mr Forrest at Shildon last season.
The list of retained players includes club captain Tommy Marron, last season’s player of the year Darren Richardson and Ibby Hassan, who made a big impact after signing midway through the season.
Mr Forrest said he hoped the arrival of the new signings would re-energise those returning to the club this season.
Pre-season was due to begin at Tow Law tonight but this week’s downpours have made the pitch unplayable, so the first game is against Blyth Spartans at the Wanted Stadium on Saturday (3pm).
Next week there’s a visit to Richmond on Wednesday, July 12, before a trip to Scotland for a game against Troon.
It’s back home for the visit of Haddington Athletic on July 22 before completing pre-season with matches at Billingham Town and Crook.
Mr Forrest said playing a large number of pre-season friendlies was part of a strategy he had always adopted.
“There is no substitute for playing games. Whatever you do on the training pitch can’t replicate playing games.
“I believe it takes five, six, or seven games to get to where you should be. We have six friendlies and we can squeeze one more in, if any team would like to play a game, home or away, 25th/26th July please get in touch.
“This gets fitness levels where they need to be and then you can focus training sessions on tactical awareness and positional play.”
Mr Forrest said as far as he was concerned, the season begins with the first friendly, not the first league game.
“We are looking for players to go into games with the right attitude and to build on what we expect from them.
“Whether you are playing at Tow Law or the first league game of the season, we are there to win a football match.”
West begin their league campaign with three home matches, against Guisborough Town on Tuesday, August 8; Penrith on Saturday, August 12, and Newcastle Benfield on Tuesday, August 15.
FA Cup games get announced today and that will be the first competitive game on August 5th.
The team can look forward to playering on a much improved surface – something Mr Forrest insisted on when he took on the manager’s role.
“I am delighted with the work that’s been done. You are never going to get rid of the slope, but it is a surface we can play the right style of football on.
“We have got to stay on top of it and got to maintain it.”
Season ticket prices for 2017-18 have been held at last year’s prices – £60 for adults; £40 concessions and any purchased before Saturday include admission to the Blyth Spartans game.
Contact Cliffy Alderson on 07811 849672 for details.
Stuart Laundy. Teesdale Mercury.