“I have seen United play Oxford United and Leicester City in the pre-season games, and, while it is fatal to read too much into pre-season matches, there are certainly some encouraging signs. Of the new faces, I have been impressed with Michael McIndoe, who, together with Paul Parry, will provide The Whites with genuine width this season… and the ability to put over decent crosses. Parry returning so soon after doing his ankle ligaments at Oldbury is clearly a bonus. I also like the look of Matt Gardiner in defence. From what I have seen, he is an uncomplicated, at times, almost unobtrusive player…. and I mean that as a compliment. He does the simple things effectively, with the minimum of fuss. United now have genuine competition for places at the back – Wrighty, Gardiner, James at centre-back.. Chris Lane and Matt Clarke battling it out for the right back berth… and Sturgess, who, for me, was one of the stars of last season, at left back.
“Midfield was the weak link last season, but the arrival of McIndoe and Phil Robinson, together with Snapper’s continual improvement means we look stronger here. (Snapper was always 100% effort, but his passing has improved immeasurably – hope that is not the kiss of death!) Gavin Williams and Paul Parry we know all about… both need a big season if Conference league clubs are to challenge, while Dodge proved against Oxford he still has a role to play on the field, as well as in the physio’s room – he can also double up as a full back, so really is Mr Utility.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the attack is the area of concern. Rob Elmes will always do a decent job… but we are still to see the very best of Steve Piearce. It is worrying he has again been injured, and it leaves United short up front. It would be wrong for me to judge Andy Moran on one viewing (v Leicester), although he showed some nice touches. For me, Dai Thomas looked the better bet, assuming the only trial he has to deal with is the one he had at Edgar Street. GT’s plan to take him on loan for a month appears to be a good idea – let’s have a decent look at him. Either of them (Thomas or Moran) has to be a better longterm bet than Leroy, though. My only concern there would be that Thomas and Elmes are too similar in their style of play… although, maybe with Gavin playing just behind them, this could still work. As for the rest of the squad – United still need cover for Scott Cooksey, although this does appear to be in hand… while Craig Hanson and James Wall are still young. Sooner or later, someone will play the ball in front of Hanson, and let him use his very obvious pace – then, maybe, we will see what he can really do.
“Can United win the Conference? They can…. but more and more it comes down to one factor. According to the song, it makes the world go round.. and, in my experience, it runs diamonds a very close second in terms of being a girl’s best friend – MONEY. Several Clubs (Rushden, most notably) have pot-loads of it, while United, as we all know, are pot-less. You just worry that, were it to come down to the week before deadline day, other Clubs would clearly be better able to strengthen when it really mattered. My heart says they can win it (they were third for a long time last season)… my head says, realistically, they will have to wait until the two-up, two-down comes in…. The last time United’s first team won a league – any league – was the old third division in 1976. When they storm to the Championship with five games to go!”