Marcus Bignot is relishing having a fully fit squad to choose from as he aims to give Chester FC supporters some Christmas cheer at the end of a ‘miserable’ year.
But, while the Blues boss has every senior professional available for selection apart from Jordan Archer, he has made it clear he now considers James Jones very much a first-team player.
The 18-year-old defender was drafted into Bignot’s starting line-up for Chester’s back-to-back wins over Solihull Moors in the league and then AFC Fylde in the FA Trophy.
And, such were the performances he produced in the morale-boosting double victory, Jones is set to keep his place for this Saturday’s trip to FC Halifax Town (3pm).
Bignot said: “Many managers are forced to play youngsters due to financial restraints, injuries, suspensions or pressure from the football club, but for us it was a case of wanting to bring in James Jones sooner.
“We couldn’t do that as he had some niggling injuries, but we can now and he’s a player who can play at this level week in and week out.
“This December/January period is important for him, and for us, and he can be pleased with how he’s started.”
Bignot also has competition for places up front.
Harry White showed he is ready for a first-team return with a brace in a behind-closed-doors friendly win over a youthful Birmingham City at the Swansway Chester Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
And Bignot: “We’ve gone from Leyton Orient where not one player on the bench had made a first-team appearance to now when we’re having a bench where you’re looking at it and going, ‘that’s strong’.
“You’re only ever as good as your bench and the bench is getting stronger and stronger week by week.
“That gives us strength, that gives us balance and, most importantly, it gives us competition for places.”
Bignot went on a spying mission to the Shay on Tuesday night to watch Halifax’s rearranged FA Trophy tie with Macclesfield Town.
But he was left disappointed when the tie was postponed 22 minutes before kick-off because of a frozen pitch.
Temperatures in West Yorkshire are set to improve considerably before Saturday.
And Bignot said: “I actually got inside the ground. I picked up my team sheet and I was told it had been postponed.
“It was disappointing not to see them live but I know Halifax well from my (National League) North days.
“I know their manager, Billy Heath, really well. When we won the North title with Solihull, North Ferriby (with Heath in charge) were up there with us challenging.
“I know what they’ll be about but it’s an opportunity for us to continue this good start to December and an opportunity to put together back-to-back wins in the league, which we haven’t achieved so far.
“It’s been a miserable year for the supporters but the aim is to end the year going into Christmas and New Year with spirits high and our supporters in a good mood and with hope for 2018.
“We’re seeing a change in the group in terms of mindset and performance.
“The belief is growing and there is nothing like winning to improve that belief and confidence.”