GARSTANG boss Richard Thomas has challenged his young guns to come of age when the new West Lancs League season kicks off on Saturday.
Thomas’ side travel to Stoneclough for the first competitive game of the post Stuart Darley era and he knows that his youthful squad will face a stern test.
“We have a lot of good quality players and their talent is not in question but for many of them it will be the first time playing at this level and they will need to stand up to the challenge’’ said Thomas.
“Like a lot of teams in this league Stoneclough are quite physical and we need our young players to find their feet pretty quickly and to get used to that. It’s going to be tough and August is already going to be an important month for us.’’
Speaking at the start of the week Thomas was still hopeful of bringing in the ‘two or three’ new players he believes the squad requires before the big weekend kick-off, but was reluctant to mention any names other than to say he had some ‘irons in the fire’.
One player who will be missing the start of the campaign will be Seydou Bamba. The Mali-born player has had to return home to sort out a visa issue but Thomas hopes to have the influential midfielder available again by the end of the month.
“It’s not a major issue and it will get sorted out but he is an important player for us so we will miss him in those early games’’ commented Thomas.
Bamba was on the scoresheet when Garstang drew an entertaining pre-season game against Wigan Robin Park at the Riverside last week, a fixture that was followed by a less encouraging 3-0 defeat as Hesketh Bank, although Garstang only had 12 players available and the threadbare squad was always going to have their work cut out on a blisteringly hot day.
Thomas said he was happy with the effort being put in by his players both in training and in pre-season fixtures and said he was equally pleased to see the reserves developing strongly, following their 3-0 win at Lytham.
One slight injury doubt surrounded first choice ‘keeper Simon Howell who picked up a knock in the Wigan Robin Park game that fortunately only turned out to be bad bruising after a break was feared.
Thomas was due to check out training for the under 18s tonight, Wednesday, as he continues his pledge to give youth a chance and keep in close contact with all levels of the club’s playing structure.
• Garstang’s game against Stoneclough on Saturday is followed by two more away trips - to Burnley United next Wednesday, August 10, and Tempest United on August 13. The first game of the new season at the Riverside is not until Tuesday, August 16, against Vickerstown.