STRATFORD Town boss Tommy Wright showed little sympathy for his squad during the blistering weekend heat, as they stepped up their preparations for this Saturday’s trip to Yeovil Town.
Several members of last season’s history-making squad, new signings and a bunch of trialists were put through their paces last Thursday evening to mark the start of pre-season.
It was also the first opportunity for Wright to work with his squad since the former Darlington and Corby Town gaffer took over from Thomas Baillie, who is now Tamworth’s head of senior football.
On their first training session back following a two-month break after a highly successful 2018/19 season where Town finished fifth in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central, reached the FA Trophy first round and won the CSS League Challenge Cup, the players did plenty of running to build up the fitness levels.
But the worst was yet to come as Wright led the Saturday session in the scorching temperatures, with the players running from the Arden Garages Stadium all the way to the Recreation Ground and then back again after some light work with the footballs.
The footballs were back out on Tuesday night and were out once again yesterday,Thursday, as the squad geared up for their first pre-season friendly of the summer on Saturday with a trip to National League outfit Yeovil Town, who were relegated from League Two last season.
Yeovil are using the game as a chance for fans to meet their newly-appointed manager Darren Sarll and players prior to kick-off at 3pm.
Wright told the Herald: “We are working the lads hard as we have got a really hard game against Yeovil Town this Saturday.
“For the first session back last Thursday we made the lads do some running, but they cannot complain about not seeing the footballs as we’ve given them that luxury.
“There are clubs that don’t bring the footballs out for a quite a while so the lads have been lucky in that regard.
“The lads are all trying to impress ahead of this Saturday’s game away at Yeovil and the plan is to take a squad of 24 and use 22 of them, so we will have two different teams out for each half.
“This week will be judgment week for a lot of the trailists as I’m not one for keeping players on just to keep the numbers up.
“If the lads that are trialling with us are good enough, then they will be featuring on Saturday.
“We know how difficult it is going to be on Saturday as Yeovil have dropped out of the Football League, but I want the lads to show that we can be competitive.
“We would have had four sessions by the time Saturday comes, but we’re going to be playing a side which has probably had around 12 fitness days already so it’s going to be tough.
“It’s important that we work hard on our shape and organisation prior to then so that we can try and put on a good performance.”
Wright has continued to shape his squad for the 2019/20 Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central campaign with a number of new signings.
One of the more high profile signings of the summer sees former Derby County striker Callum Ball make the move to the Arden Garages Stadium.
The 26-year-old made 29 appearances for the Rams and also had 20 outings with St Mirren in the Scottish Championship.
Ball started his career as a Nottingham Forest junior before joining East Midlands rivals Derby County in 2002 and signing professional forms with the club seven years later.
During his time with Derby, Ball also had loan stints at Coventry City, Torquay United and Notts County.
A move to St Mirren followed in 2014 before teaming up with now Stratford boss Wright for the first time at Corby Town a year later.
After a short stay at Barwell, he re-united with Wright at Nuneaton Town in 2017 before returning to Barwell and then transferring to Stamford.
“Callum is another player that has worked with me previously at Corby Town and Nuneaton Town,” said Wright.
“He’s a very good target man and will give the team a different option and platform to build from.
“He can also operate at centre-half as well, having played in that position over the last two seasons with Stamford.”
Former AFC Rushden & Diamonds, Kettering Town, Bedford Town and Cambridge City forward Joel Gyasi has also put pen to paper while goalkeepers Brandon Ganley and Elliott Taylor have been brought in to provide competition for Sam Lomax.
Ganley, who spent his youth career with Coventry City and Walsall, was Shepshed Dynamo’s No.1 last season, helping the Leicestershire club to a seventh-placed finish in the Total Motion Midland League Premier Division.
Leicester-based Taylor, formerly of Nuneaton Town, has had stints with Oadby Town, Coalville Town and Barwell.
Chris Wreh, son of former Arsenal, Monaco and Liberia star Christopher Wreh, is currently training with Town as well.
He lists Stony Stratford Town, Barton Rovers and Dunstable Town as previous clubs.
It was also confirmed that Nabil Shariff would be a Town player for a further year, despite fellow league rivals Banbury United announcing they had signed the former St Neots Town frontman.
Kynan Isaac is another member of last season’s squad to also sign forms for another season at the Arden Garages Stadium after playing an integral part in the club’s history-making 2018/19 campaign.
Wright added: “I briefly worked with Nabil in my first season as a player/manager at Corby Town.
“He is now more experienced and I’m looking forward to working with him again.
“Nabil gives us a great option as a central striker or wide player and is someone that is a handful at this level.
“Kynan is a player that made a big impression last season and we will be looking to get even more from him.
“He can play anywhere down the left and gives us a lot of quality.”
Meanwhile, Town have added Alcester Town to their list of pre-season friendlies.
A select XI will make the trip to the Stratford Road Ground on Friday, 12th July (7pm kick-off).
Before then, the Blues are on the road to Midland League Premier Division outfit Racing Club Warwick on Tuesday, 9th July (7.45pm kick-off).
Tickets for the Yeovil game cost £5, £3 for concessions and under-16s gain free entry. Town fans can travel to the game on the team coach, but spaces are limited. Contact Mark Bickley on 01789 269336 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a space.