Vanarama National League fan preview - Harrogate's Gavin Mills makes his season assessment
League sponsors Vanarama have been getting the fans' perspective ahead of the new season - which kicks off this Saturday.So the new brand season is nearly upon us - but what have Harrogate fans got to look forward to?
Hopefully another season of competing at the top end of the Vanarama National League table. Last season we surpassed all supporters' expectations by reaching the play-offs. Thing is, that now brings added expectation. Let's see!
It's been play-off after play-off for the club in the past few years. Can they do it again?
Definitely. Hopefully we don't suffer 'second season syndrome', but with the majority of last season's squad still in place - and with some added quality - I see no reason why the play-offs are not a reasonable target again for the club.
Simon Weaver has taken the club to new heights - what will it take to make that next step?
Last season our defensive frailties proved our ultimate undoing. Simon has targeted this area as a priority over the summer and we have so far added Connor Hall (Brackley), George Smith (Chesterfield) and Will Smith (Barnsley) to the defensive ranks. If we can make improvements to our goal conceded column, then we could be right up there.
What's been the best bit of business done over the past few months?
It has to be the signing of ex-Premier League striker Jon Stead. The target man may now be 36, but he has still been a regular scorer in the past few seasons. He looks to be an excellent addition to the squad, bringing both quality and that extra bit of experience to the club.
Who will be your star player to watch come August 3?
I'm really excited by the signing of Brendan Kiernan from Welling. He has impressed in pre-season and brings pace and directness to our forward play. I think he will prove to be an excellent signing and a fans' favourite.
Who are the other sides to watch out for and who could be in the promotion mix?
It's going to be a highly competitive league this year. Big clubs such as Notts County, Yeovil, Torquay, Barnet and Chesterfield all look strong and will all be there or thereabouts. Add in last season's near misses Wrexham, Fylde and Solihull (and Harrogate!) and you have practically half the league with the credentials to impress. There will undoubtedly be another couple of clubs who also come from the shadows and make a push. It's going to be a very difficult division to get up and out of!
Whose ground are you most looking forward to stepping into?
Torquay United's Plainmoor - already have our late summer weekend planned!
And what game would you like to win more than any other?
No game at this stage is more important than any other, however - I would like a win against AFC Fylde, as we surely are due one!
What opposition player would you most like to see in your team?
Danny Rowe. The best player I've seen at this level for several seasons. Just a quality finisher - and signing him would stop him always scoring against us!
Finally, the key question to end - where do you predict your team will finish next season?
It's neck-on-the-line time! I am going for 4th - with my fingers firmly crossed!
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