Garry Hill doesn’t need anybody counting his squad numbers for him as he prepares for the first pre-season friendly of the summer. Plenty of observers have been keen to helpfully tot up the running totals but the man in control of the process is losing no sleep.
“We’ve got 10 now and – obviously – I’m pretty confident we’ll have more than 10 players in a month’s time!” he said. “We know we’re a little bit behind other clubs in respect of signings, nobody has to tell us that, but it’s July 5th, there’s no panic. A month ago we had no new signings. We’ve had to play a bit of a waiting game this summer with the May window that we gave players.
“That’s what we’ve had to do this year and just get on with it, this summer has been about going back to basics. So, yes, it has been difficult to do too much too early and with players leaving, we’ve been able to see a fuller picture of what budget we’ve got.”
Some targets have come and gone but with 25+ years in the game, the Fleet boss has seen it all before.
“We’ve missed out on a few, that’s football,” he said. “That happens every club every season. I’m quite relaxed about the way it’s going. I’m only going to work with 17 or 18 players this year. The days of having six or seven players spare, that’s not going to happen. That’s the new reality and that’s why we’ve done what we had to and why we’ll recruit the way we are now. The number-one priority this season is making sure we’re competitive in a very tough league.”
Part of that process saw Ebou Adams and Corey Whitely move into the EFL and those departures freed up another two squad places.
“We’ve had the situation where we allowed players to move on and I wish those all the best – certainly Ebou Adams and Corey Whitely going into the Football League,” Hill said, “which are both great opportunities and showed their ambition and desire.”
Competitiveness is the manager’s number-one priority in a division that sees some ex-League big guns come to the Kuflink Stadium, two of them in the first month of the season. And Hill admitted he’d barely had time to glance at Wednesday’s fixtures release.
“I glanced briefly at a bit of paper with the fixtures but I’ve not gone through them,” he said. “I’ve not had time. I’m in for players all the time and then you wait for the League clubs to go back to decide on loaning players or not. There are four clubs coming into the division as ex-League clubs, Torquay United and Stockport County are going to hit the ground running and then Yeovil and Notts County coming down – all well-established League clubs at one time or another – and we’ve got to be ready for them fairly soon into the season.”
Pre-season is all about readiness with Hill all but satisfied with his defence and looking to recruit in positions further forward.
“I’ve got a good base now defensively,” he said. “You’ve got Ashmore, Wilson, Aswad Thomas, James Grimes, Kingy, Ayo – they are big, experienced, proven players at this level and a lot of them have had success. You just look at what Lawrie Wilson’s won, Aswad was in play-offs with Grimsby and others, Kingy’s won promotions, Grimes has made the play-offs – they’re all good players and that’s before we move into midfield with Alex Lawless who’s won this league twice.
“I have one defender who I’ve got in mind to come to the club and then we fill the other gaps. In my mind I’ve always said if I’m working with 17 or 18 experienced players, good pros, they will serve the club. I’ve recruited them, I’m building the squad now – that’s important for any manager who inherits a squad and has to build another. And now we all move on with a fresh start.
“We need experienced players at this level and we need good characters and that’s what we’re aiming for. That’s very, very important.
“We’ve been lucky enough to get Myles Weston back through the door this past week as well. He also gives us a lot of experience, he’s a very professional player on and off the pitch, a good character and he’ll give us a lot.”