Aldershot Town manager Barry Smith hopes that his new squad will start to take shape in the next few weeks.
Smith has enjoyed advanced talks with midfielder Jim Stevenson and defender Sean McGinty and states: “I’ve had very positive discussions with both of them, and I hope that they agree sooner rather than later. I’m quite confident that they will.”
Contract offers have been made to several other members of last season’s squad, but Barry will not allow his plans to be hampered by individuals holding out for a better deal. “The contracts have been offered but if they decide they’ll hang on and I then sign somebody else then that contract will be off the table,” he confirms. “We’re being fair to them, by giving them time to think about it, but we’re not going to hang about and wait, and end up signing players at the very last minute. I want to try to get a settled squad as soon as possible.”
The former Dundee manager has admitted that several of those players are considering offers from other clubs, but also feels that they could develop further under his leadership.
“That shows how well they’ve done last season. It’s credit to those players for generating that interest,” he considers. “Obviously we want to keep them at the Club but we’re under no illusion that if a club comes in with a bigger offer then they’ll move. That’s the nature of football and there’s nothing we can do about that.
“There are good players there,” is his summation of last season’s squad. “They had a bad start to the season, and probably didn’t really recover. Chris (Barker) came in and did well at the end of the season, and showed that they are capable of getting some results. It’s just about giving them more information and trying to get more out of the players.”
Smith has already contacted players currently in the Football League, and hopes to find mutual benefit in a successful season for The Shots. “We need enthusiastic, hungry players that want to get back into the League, whether it’s with Aldershot Town or getting a move to a higher level,” is his bullish sales pitch to potential signings. “The guys I’m bringing in need to be hungry, I don’t want players that are happy just sitting picking up a wage. You have to be hungry to do better.”
Smith hopes to hit the ground running in his transfer dealings, and – despite several high-profile moves early in the close season – is confident of landing his targets. “It’s about getting the right players to the club – it’s not about taking any player but getting the right player. There are that many players out of contract, I don’t think we’ll be left behind. There has been a few big signings already but the majority of clubs are pretty much similar to us, they’re just putting the feelers out at the moment.
“Close season’s always very difficult, as players weigh up their options, but at least we’re getting a chance to speak to a lot of players. There are a lot of players being offered, but it’s quite difficult with finances, because there is a level we are pitching at and trying to get the right players for that level.”
Whilst Smith confirms that he wants “to have the basis of a squad” in place for the start of pre-season training on 1 July, there will also be room for one or two key additions later in the summer. “There’ll be some trailists coming in, as you’ve got to take a chance on some players but you also want to have a look at them,” he says, before addressing rumours of players heading south from his homeland: “As much as I’d like to bring down players from Scotland, it has to be the right players. I’m not going to bring down average players to Aldershot just because they are from Scotland. They’ll be here on merit, not because of anything else, and that goes for any player that I bring to the Club.”
Consistency remains the key for any team hunting success in the re-named Vanarama National League, and Barry will be directly involved in the physical and cerebral conditioning required ahead of a long season.
“It’s having that mentality in every game,” he concludes, “and we’ll try to drum that into them throughout pre-season, so that by the start of the season they know what is expected of them.
“I need to be out on the training pitch. I’m hands-on and I like to get involved. I could nae be stuck in the office, that’d drive me to cabin fever. I think it’s good for the players to see the manager out on the training pitch and being enthusiastic about the job. I think you get the players to react to that.”