RUGBY Town start their second season in the Northern Premier League structure this weekend with a trip to Gresley and new manager James Jepson admits he cannot wait to get going.
Recently-installed Jepson is raring to start his managerial campaign after a busy summer re-building a Valley side capable of returning to step three of the non-league football pyramid at the seventh attempt.
Jepson took over from the departing Dale Belford in May, after the ex-Tamworth manager had guided Town up into a ninth place finish in the Evostik-sponsored NPL South Division.
And whilst unwilling to make rash predictions with regards to their 2016/17 destiny, Jepson was quietly confident that it would be a good season for the club, who host Stamford at Butling Road next Tuesday.
“We can’t wait to get going now,” said Jepson. “We know it is going to be a tough challenge, but we are determined to be competitive and we know where this club wants to be in the pyramid, which is why we have brought in a number of players who are used to playing at a higher level.
“Of course having to put together a virtually brand new squad makes it more difficult, so we have to be patient, but I’m hoping we can be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.”
Jepson was hoping to add one more player ahead of the weekend kick-off and he is also sweating on the availability of apparent first choice goalkeeper Louis Connor who is waiting on international clearance to feature in his first competitive match.
“A wide player I rate has become available and the board have backed me in trying to sign him, so we are actively trying to push that through in time.
“Louis needs clearance from the States as he played there last season, and hopefully that will be completed for Saturday too. But if not, we have two other keepers registered in Ben Heath and young Ashley Bodycote, and I’m confident in their abilities if we need them.”
Valley rounded off their pre-season schedule with a 5-2 home defeat to NPL Premier Grantham last Saturday, although Jepson did rest a number of his likely upcoming first choice eleven for the warm-up game – including central defensive duo Jason Lee and Jamie Tank.
“We’ve only got a relatively small squad, so we rested a few for the final friendly mainly as a precaution, but they should all be available for Saturday.
“Gresley are one of my old teams, so that adds a little extra spice. I had a great time there and was part of a title winning side, and I still have a number of friends still involved at the club.
“They will have pretty much a new side too, and they will be at home, so the pressure may be more on them than us.”
Town completed the double over the Moatmen last season, following up a 2-1 home success in their first ever home game in the NPL with a 3-1 victory at the Moat Ground in February.
But Basford has also picked out plenty of others club too who have a chance of being there or there about’s this season.
He added: “Rushden and Diamonds are likely to be up there too, and Bedworth have kept most of last season’s squad together, when they only narrowly missed out on keeping their place in the Southern League Premier.
“Basford appear to be going for it again this year, and Leek always have a strong side. I don’t know too much about Shaw Lane yet, but they only just missed out on the title last time round, so I guess they will be a threat this year too.”
Following their 3-0 win at Heath Hayes in the FA Cup extra preliminary round, Bromsgrove Sporting will be Valley’s opponents in the Preliminary Round of the competition on August 20. Jepson’s side will host Ilkeston in the first round of the League Cup on November 15.