SAUNDERS | “We’re all excited to be back”
Updated: Jun 28
Over the weekend the first team returned to training ahead of our 23/24 campaign.
Following the clubs highest position finish in 37 years, 14 of the 16 retained were ready to get back on the pitch and build on from last season’s successful campaign.
Fans, players and management alike can start to get excited as the new season draws ever closer, with fixtures being released next week on 5 July, as Assistant Manager Matt Saunders, explained when we spoke with him on the first day back at training: “We’re all excited to be back, it’s been difficult for me personally because football is my identity and it’s the same for all the management team.
"It’s different for the players because they need a physical rest, whereas for us as staff we just want to get back to it and I’m sure the players feel the same now that they’ve rested.
"It’s horrible having the break, you don’t want the break but you refresh and hopefully everyone hascome back with that renewed enthusiasm and we try and replicate what we did last season.”
Looking ahead to pre-season fans will be hoping for a better return in results than in last year’s campaign as Saunders highlighted: “Everyone knows last pre-season we didn’t win as many games as we’d like to because we didn’t have the squad together, but this season to have 16 players that know what we want to do and will retain the information that we give them now is vital for us.”
Despite the club’s inactivity so far during the summer transfer window, Saunders explained the rationale behind it and how the management team are in no rush to complete signings.
“The truth is the reason we haven’t delved into the market is because we can’t get deals done at this stage. We’re in no rush and no panic, because we’ve got 16 players that we know can do a job for us in this league.
"It’s very hard to get deals done at the moment so we’ve just got to be patient and it’s not the first time we’ve been in this position so we know what to expect as a club, as a management team, as fans, we know that our deals and our happenings will be later in the windowso there’s no panic for us.
"We’ve got a really strong group together that we believe in and we will look to add if and when we can.”
Looking toward the 2023/24 campaign Saunders addressed where the Stones are expected to be competing compared to other sides and manage expectations following on from a promising 22/23 campaign in which the side regularly flirted with the play-off positions.
“The quality at the bottom has definitely got better. This league is now harder at the bottom, which in truth is where were going to be competing and we’ll be favourites to finish bottom as we are every season.
"The landscape of the league has changed and even the transfer market has changed so much in the last two seasons. You used to be competing with six or seven part time teams where as now you’re competing with 23 full time teams.
"That’s why it’s a huge achievement for us to be doing what we’re doing in this period. We’ve shown in a sustained period now that we can stay in the league so if we can stay in the league for what will be our fifth season next season then it’s an unbelievable achievement because a lot of teams have failed to do that on a lot more money on a full-time basis.”
The Stones return to pre-season action on Saturday 8th July when we make the short journey over to Rayners Lane at Tithe Farm Sports & Social Club at 3PM.
Words by Chloe Logan