NOT one member of the Chester FC squad can now be guaranteed a first-team start each week.
The quality Neil Young has at his disposal means players considered cornerstones of the side are no longer assured of a place in the starting XI.
Blues boss Young made it clear there are no ‘untouchables’ when he revealed returning captain George Horan would have started on the bench against Stafford Rangers on Saturday had Christian Smith not picked up an injury in training.
Fit-again Horan took his chance and now it is Smith who faces a fight to get back in the team – and that is just the way Young wants it.
He said: “I’ve said to the lads in the dressing room that only you can drop yourselves now.
“There’s nobody in there I would not play. Last season you have would said when Michael Wilde, George Horan and Ashley Williams were fit they would play. But this season I’d struggle to say if so and so is fit they will play.
“You only have to look at the forwards. Matty McNeil and Chris Simm have been outstanding, then you’ve got the league’s leading goalscorer from last season in Michael Wilde and Jamie Rainford sitting on the bench.
“The players drop themselves now and if they are playing well it’s going to be difficult for the other lads to break in.”
Young believes the squad he has assembled is the best he has worked with and has the ability to operate at a higher level.
Only one player – transfer-listed midfielder Bradley Barnes – is surplus to requirements after Greg Stones was released.
Young was sad to see the versatile defender go as he was one of his first signings after taking over at the Exacta Stadium last year.
But with a budget to be adhered to, Young cannot afford to keep players who will simply not play.
He said: “This is the most confident I’ve been about a football team in all the years I’ve done it.
“Although I never say never, I don’t envisage bringing anyone else to the football club because I’m very, very happy with what I’ve got.
“I threw the team together quickly last season and I’ve got so much admiration for what that team achieved, but this team is better and I think it would compete in the league above.
“But first things first we’ve got to worry about this division. There’s some very good teams in this division, but if the players keep doing what they’re doing it will take a good team to stop us.”