City stronger for new season

MIKE SYMONS: The striker has been brought back to Worcester City to score much-needed goals for the Blue and Whites.

MIKE SYMONS: The striker has been brought back to Worcester City to score much-needed goals for the Blue and Whites.

First published in Sport Worcester News: Photograph of the Author by

EVERY time a new season comes around, fans greet it with fresh waves of optimism.

In their minds, this is the year their team is going to either continue their domination, achieve something special or finally make the breakthrough.

Often with scant regard to how they fared last season. For this is a new campaign and anything is possible.

Supporters dare to dream, even if that dream soon turns into a nightmare. Football seems to do that to us all.

It is no different at Worcester City with the new Vanarama Conference North curtain-raiser against Stalybridge Celtic at Aggborough just 48 hours away.

City fans are used to setting their expectations low – that’s not a criticism, just a fact given the club’s recent history.

That staying in the division last season was heralded as a success is proof of that. Yet, given the financial restraints, and their position in the relegation zone at the turn of the year, it was a major achievement.

Fans recognised that and, after seeing City enjoy a strong second half to the 2013-14 campaign, are ready to continue the Aggborough adventure.

More than 300 have already snapped up season tickets which, considering the majority are at full price and not the £100 offer (500 of those were sold last summer), shows support has not waned over time away from St George’s Lane.

As a result, supporters will be setting their sights a little higher than last season but, hopefully, not too much.

To think that Worcester are going to go from 15th to play-off challengers would be somewhat fanciful.

Manager Carl Heeley and his coaching team have done extremely well on a relatively small budget but they are not miracle workers.

It would be more likely to assume City would aspire to better last season’s efforts and set themselves a new target – perhaps a top 10 finish. That is not unrealistic.

Again, they have been tagged as relegation candidates by the bookies, which was understandable last season but looks somewhat harsh this time around.

I backed them to defy that label and I will do so again for 2014-15, with comfortable breathing space.

But it should not be forgotten that staying up is crucial as City are homeless and need to keep their status if they are to have any hope of a third season at Aggborough. A stadium at Perdiswell appears no closer.

Yet, by definition, City are stronger, because they have kept the elements of the team that did well and sought to improve where they were weak.

Their survival last term was built on a solid defence that was tough to breach and Heeley has managed to retain that unit, while adding the experience of another keeper in Nathan Vaughan.

Adding Danny Jackman and Connor Gudger, who both played in the Conference National last season, to a midfield that often lacked creativity is a definite plus, while bringing back Mike Symons to a club where he has always done well is another boost.

Scoring goals was the problem last season and signing Symons is a significant step in addressing that shortcoming.

But City had hoped he would play with, rather than instead of, Daniel Nti and question marks still remain over the latter’s future.

Keep Nti or replace him and City have reason to be looking up the table.

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