Jay Saunders is happy with his new Margate squad – but says fans won’t see the best of them just yet.
It has been a summer of change at Hartsdown Park as Gate prepares for the Isthmian Premier season.
Manager Saunders has been busy in the transfer market, with new signings including Jake Embery, Sam Blackman, Ben Greenhalgh, Dan Thompson, James Bessey-Saldanha, Lewis Knight, Mo Kamara and Ryan Palmer.
There have been challenges too, with Doug Loft signing and leaving in a few days, with assistant manager Jamie Coyle joining Ramsgate, goalkeeper Dominic Vose moving to Billericay and up-and-coming Archie Burnett signed by Bromley.
But Saunders believes Margate is in better shape for this season, which begins at Wingate & Finchley this Saturday.
“We have a pretty decent squad,” said the Gate boss, whose team ended the preseason with a 2-0 win over Hythe this weekend.
“I just hope we will be more consistent. I’m looking at Saturday and I think we had two players who were here last year so it’s a completely new team and it’s going to take a little while to get it right.
“We have improved over the pre-season, the players have better understood what we want.
“The team in my head that I would like to start the season with did not play a game together in the preseason, due to the coronavirus, missing people and injuries.
“Because of that, people probably won’t see the best of us for five or six games, once they really get the hang of it, we’ve set the pace and everyone knows.
“But it’s a good group and overall it’s a lot more positive than last year.
“Last year we were taking bets on players whereas this year I think we have recruited players who have played at this level, and above, and know the level.
“There are areas we need to strengthen, and that’s another reason why I think you probably won’t see the best of us for a few games, but we are working to get the guys in.
“There are some good teams in the league. Worthing and Lewes will be up there, you have Cray and Kingstonian, then your Bognors and Horshams.
“It’s going to be tough but I want to improve the two seasons that were cut short and I would like to try to push for the play-offs.”
The signing of Embery, who scored against Hythe, could prove to be a masterstroke if he stays in form.
A goal machine throughout youth football and then with Herne Bay in the south-eastern Isthmus, injuries hit his chances at his hometown club Maidstone.
Saunders said: “He came in after a long period of absence.
“I knew he was a goalscorer – I remember watching him at Herne Bay when I was at Maidstone, wondering if he was ready for the National League.
“John Still took his chance and unfortunately he had injuries and it didn’t work out for him.
“He hurt his calf here, which happens when you’ve had a long time off, but he looked sharp and hungry when he came up against Hythe.
“He’s someone who gives us another option, but it’s important that we make sure he’s in good shape and that he’s facilitating it.
“He’s not ready to do 90 minutes yet, so we might get a good 60 or 70 or bring him in for the last half hour while he gets in tune.”
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