STAMFORD face a series of tough pre-season ties as Graham Drury strives to forge a team of champions this summer.
Football League sides Rotherham United and Notts County are among the opposition Drury plans to test his side against and the Stamford manager, who says he is starting with a blank teamsheet after returning to the hotseat two weeks ago, is looking at all options as he assembles a lean squad of around 18 players.
Even at this stage time is limited as the Daniels boss aims to play at least six – ideally eight – friendlies before the start of the new season, which is expected to be on August 18.
One of these games will be the visit of Rotherham United, led by former Stamford boss Steve Evans, on August 11.
Stamford will also face either Boston United or Lincoln United after receiving a bye to the semi-final of the Lincolnshire Shield, and Drury revealed a match against Notts County may also be in the pipeline.
“In 12 months time I want this team to be league champions,” said Drury. “I do not want to be second best. I want to go straight up.
“That isn’t to put pressure on the players; that puts pressure on me to succeed.
“I am looking at the squad from last year and I have also spoken to a lot of the Corby players. I want to bring in players that I know I can trust.”
The first to sign up to Drury’s plans were Tyrone Kirk, Robbie Maddox and 20-year-old attacking midfielder Sam Ives, who was previously at Corby and Cambridge United. But even with just a handful of players confirmed at this stage, the Daniels boss has already set an ambitious target.
“I want commitment and in return I think the players can trust me that they will be well treated. We want to get a team playing with each other and gelled relatively early.”
Kirk was with Drury during the manager’s first spell at Stamford and the tricky winger was the first to sign up this summer.
“It’s a real coup to have Tyrone here,” said Drury. “Tyrone and I know each other well and I’m delighted to be working with him again.
“Tyrone and I have discussed his wish to play at a higher level and agreed hard work and creative, impressive performances in a Daniels shirt will help him achieve his goal.”
Midfielder Ives was unveiled at the Premier Kitchens Arena on Friday and the Stamford boss expects great things from the first new arrival at Stamford this summer.
He said: “Sam is a big signing for us. He was with me at Corby and I think he will be one of the best technical players in the league. He has bags of goals in him.”
Maddox, who was sidelined by injury for a long period of last season, added his name to Drury’s fledgling squad over the weekend.
During their previous spell together at Stamford, Maddox won the player of the year award at the club and Drury added: “I know what Robbie is capable of and how to maximise his performances. He will add competition to midfield and offers a utility role if needed.”
Drury also expressed a desire to return the club to local roots, possibly linking up with the likes of Blackstones and Bourne if arrangements can be made that suit all parties.
“We are trying to keep it as local as possible,” said Drury, who says he has learnt about the art of management during his years at Corby.
“I have mellowed,” he insisted. “I understand that players do not always want me bellowing and screaming at them.
“And I’ve picked up newer methods of management – even things like how the changing rooms are laid out can make a difference.”
The new manager’s backroom team has been quickly assembled with Darren Young and Dean West joining the Daniels staff alongside Paul Holden who followed Drury from Corby.
West, who made more than 400 appearances for Burnley, Bury, Lincoln City and Boston United, arrives from Lincoln Moorlands where he was manager, and reforms his partnership with Drury and Holden.