Chester FC boss Jon McCarthy is out to prove the bookmakers wrong and lead his side to a memorable season.
The Blues begin their Vanarama National League campaign at Solihull Moors a week on Saturday (August 5, 3pm) and are among the favourites with some bookmakers to finish in the bottom four come the end of the season.
A miserable post-Christmas run of form last season that saw Chester slide from seventh before eventually finishing in 19th has undoubtedly shaped their thinking but McCarthy has acted quickly over the summer to overhaul his squad and bring in fresh blood.
Out went Elliott Durrell, Johnny Hunt, Blaine Hudson, Ross Killock, Kane Richards and Kieran Evans while Andy Halls, Kingsley James, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Ross Hannah, Harry White, Paul Turnbull, Nyal Bell and John McCombe have all arrived at the Swansway Chester Stadium.
The signings made by McCarthy have been warmly welcomed by many supporters, although the decision to go for quality over quantity means that the Blues are a little light in areas and go into the season with a squad of 17 senior players and three first-year professionals fresh out of the academy.
“The bookies’ reasons for having us down there is that they’ve looked at the financial muscle throughout the league, and that’s how it looks,” said McCarthy.
“But me and my players aren’t thinking about where we will be at the end of the season, all we think about is three points against Solihull, and then the next three points and the next three points. That won’t change.
“Hopefully we can prove some people wrong this season and create some of those memorable moments in the league and the cup competitions. That’s what I want for our supporters and that is what they deserve.
“All I ask is that you give the lads your backing when they need it most and they will respond. You can make them feel 10-feet tall and we need you more than ever this season.”
Key to any success will be a clean bill of health.
Injuries and suspensions left Chester with a threadbare squad for the latter part of the last campaign and that was shown in the results on the pitch.
But having introduced the services of a sports nutritionist, strength and conditioning coach and psychologist – all provided for free by professionals volunteering their time – McCarthy is hoping to avoid any injury jinxes this time around.
“I don’t need luck to do a good job here, I just don’t need bad luck,” said McCarthy.
“We had a lot of injuries and suspensions and things last season and that meant that we had a threadbare squad for the final months.
“But we have put measures in place by bringing on board extra staff – all for free – who can help us improve in that area.
“With our financial resources we are limited with what we can do and we went the route of strengthening the core of the side as early as we could and I’m happy with the business we have done and I’m sure the supporters are too.
“I’m pleased with the squad we have got and I know that every single player can come in and do a job when they have to.
“That’s why I kept some lads on, because they have the hunger. If you are out of the team then you are only an injury or suspension away from getting back in so I need everyone to be ready and sharp, and I think everyone has shown that in pre-season.”