There’s only a week to go until what we’ve all been waiting for months now – the start of the National League North campaign.
And Chester FC will begin their time back in English football’s sixth tier at home to Spennymoor Town on Saturday, August 4.
New Blues bosses Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson – who won the division last season with former club Salford City – have been busy over the summer bringing in new players after the majority of the squad which was relegated from the National League have now left the club.
And they completed a triple swoop only yesterday to add three new faces to the Blues squad.
Goalkeeper Theo Roberts has joined on a one-year deal after he was released last season by Championship side Wigan Ahtletic, though he is expected to depart the club on loan to gain more experience and be a back-up to number one Grant Shenton.
And Johnson and Morley have raided former club Salford for striker Anthony Dudley and defender Danny Livesey on season-long loan deals, with both players also eligible to turn out for the Blues in the FA Cup and FA Trophy.
With only one more pre-season friendly to go – the visit of Everton under-23s to the Swansway Chester Stadium tomorrow afternoon – Morley and Johnson will have the starting XI they intend to take to the field next month against Spennymoor very much in mind.
So with not long to go now until competitive action begins, we asked our panel of Blues fans for who they think should be in the starting line-up when the National League North campaign gets under way.
We asked: “What would be your starting XI and formation for Chester FC’s first game in the National League North against Spennymoor Town be and why?”
Here’s what they had to say...
Matt Nickson “I would personally go with 3-5-2 with the players below. This is obviously reflecting that we sign the target man who has been playing recently in the pre-season games and with George Green not quite making it for the start of the season.”
“I think that the new management team have recruited well and we can play a number of different systems and shapes dependent upon who we are playing and how the match is panning out.
“In the pre-season friendlies I have been impressed with Pritchard and Smalley who were both signed as defenders yet seem to want to be going forward and be on the front foot.
“With that in mind and seeing as we are playing a team expected to do well in Spennymoor on the opening day I would personally go with 3-5-2 with the players below.
“This is obviously reflecting that we sign the target man who has been playing recently in the pre-season games and with George Green not quite making it for the start of the season.
“Howson, Moran, Grand
“Smalley, Burton, Roberts, Pritchard
“Looking forward to the season and can’t wait for the roller coaster to start up again. Come on you Blues!”
Rio Doherty “I found it hard to put our defence together, but on the basis of this we surely have one of the strongest backlines in our league.”
“With us making a lot of impressive signings over the past few weeks, such as George Green, Anthony Dudley and Danny Livesey, this is starting to build up a big selection headache.
“On the positive side though, I’m sure that this will lead to a lot of competition for places which will make our environment very competitive. It’s been a hard decision, but here is my preferred starting XI for the Spennymoor game with us playing in a 5-3-2 formation:
“Smalley, Howson, Livesey, Grand, Pritchard
“Substitutes: Roberts, Moran, Mahon, Roberts, Hughes
“I’ve placed Grant Shenton in goal as he has looked solid in pre-season. He’s made the odd mistake at times, but I’m sure that he will do really well for us this season. Theo Roberts would be a strong back-up.
“I found it hard to put our defence together, but on the basis of this we surely have one of the strongest backlines in our league.
“Dom Smalley and John Pritchard have impressed in pre-season, and look really good going forward with their pace.
“Our centre backs Steve Howson, Simon Grand and Danny Livesey are all really experienced and offer us with a solid platform. On the downside, they may have lost a bit of pace, but you can’t really ask for a defence as good as that.
“Also, Jon Moran would be a great back-up as he has turned out to be really strong so far. He’s an excellent talker too.
“I also found my midfield selection difficult to make, so I’ve decided to play Scott Burton out on the right and Gary Stopforth on the left (or vice versa). They have both put decent performances in during pre-season and offer creative ability on the ball and are strong in the tackle.
“Gary Roberts fits into this category and is a similar player to these two as he would be a brilliant back-up with his ability on the ball. George Green would play in the ‘number 10 role’ just behind the two strikers, who is the type of player we have missed since Antoni Sarcevic donned the blue and white shirt.
“With Matty Hughes suspended for our first two games, I would place Dan Mooney in his position as things stand. This is because he has really impressed me with his creativity and attacking play when I have watched him. However, we may yet sign one or two more strikers so I will reserve my judgment until it comes closer to the big kick-off.
“The other striker will obviously be Anthony Dudley, who signed for us on-loan from Salford City yesterday. He has an excellent goals-to-game ratio and I’m really looking forward to watching him play.
“This is brilliant business and credit has to go to Bern and Jonno for capturing him. Overall, I’m delighted with all of the signings we have made considering how tight our budget is.
“These lads will hopefully provide us to be a strong force this season and guide us to a successful campaign. The new season can’t come quick enough. COYB!”