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Blackstones dream of promotion as they kick off the new United Counties League Division One with game against Bugbrooke

Blackstones kick off the new United Counties League Division One season tomorrow (Saturday, August 3), daring to believe this could be the season they win promotion.

The Stamford side finished fifth in the league last time around, after making steady progress to that point, and a similar improvement this time round could see them progressing to the Premier Division.

Joint manager Lee Clarke is delighted to have retained all of last season’s squad, and to have added several able newcomers ahead of Saturday’s curtain-raiser at home to Bugbrooke (KO 3pm).

Action from the last time Blackstones faced Bugbrooke
Action from the last time Blackstones faced Bugbrooke

He said: “We are looking for a big season and everything is in place.

“We finished fifth last year, which was an improvement on the previous season whenwe were eighth. We set a target to improve evey season, so our aim has to be to progress again.

“We have done well to retain all the players from last season, which is rare at this level, and have added three or four more.

“I feel we may have lacked a bit of depth last season, so we have addressed that and at the same time brought in some added quality.”

Clarke believes the league will be highly competitive this season, especially because there could be up to four promotion places up for grabs.

That is good news for clubs aiming to make a step-up, but it could alsomean more teams will believe they have a chance of promotion, and will push harder right to the end of the season.

The joint manager said: “A lot of teams will fancy their chances this time and that will open up the league. I think it will be really competitive this season.

“We won’t know who are our main rivals until the season is four or five weeks old, but I expect Melton to be favourites, along with Bugbrooke.

“Harrowby United and Leicester St Andrews are also fancied to do well.

“We start on Saturday with the visit of Bugbrooke, who pipped us to fourth place last season, and have added some quality, so it’s as tough a start as we could get.

“Mind you, they will be thinking the same, and it might be good to get them out of the way now.

Clarke believes his players are revelling in a brilliant team spirit and shared confidence, and that this has persuaded some to spurn approaches from higher-ranked clubs.

He and joint manager Daniel French are especially pleased that striker Jones De Souza will be available

The high-scoring striker missed all of last season with a knee injury, after bagging 25 goals and being judged player of the year in the previous campaign.

Clarke added: “Having Jones back is a big plus,and being able to keep everyone shows how much belief there is in the changing room.

“Pre-season has gone really well, and although we don’t attach too much importance to it,we beat Oadby, who are in the league above 5-0.

“So we are raring to go, starting on Saturday.”

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