Published: 06:00, 11 August 2021
Jay Saunders is happy with his new-look Margate squad - but says fans won’t see the best of them straight away.
It’s been a summer of change at Hartsdown Park as Gate prepare 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’s been challenges, too, with Doug Loft signing and leaving in a matter of days, assistant manager Jamie Coyle joining Ramsgate, keeper Dominic Vose moving to Billericay and promising Archie Burnett signed by Bromley.
But Saunders feels Margate are in better shape going into this season, which starts at Wingate & Finchley this Saturday.
“We’ve got a decent enough squad,” said the Gate boss, whose side completed pre-season with a 2-0 win over Hythe at the weekend.
“I’m just hoping we’ll be more consistent. I look at Saturday and I think we had two players who were here last year so it’s a completely new squad and it’s going to take a little bit of time to get it right.
“We got better as pre-season went on, the players got a better understanding of what we want.
“The team in my head that I’d like to start the season hasn’t played a game together in pre-season, because of coronavirus, people being away and injuries.
“Because of that, people probably won’t see the best of us until five or six games in, once they get a real understanding and we get the tempo going and everyone’s up to speed.
“But it’s a good group and, all in all, it’s a lot more positive than last year.
“Last year we were taking gambles on players whereas this year I feel we’ve signed players who’ve played this level, and above, and know the level.
“There’s 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’re working on getting lads in.
“There’s some good sides in the league. Worthing and Lewes will be right up there, you’ve got Cray and Kingstonian, and then your Bognors and Horshams.
“It’s going to be tough but I want to improve on the two seasons that were cut short and I’d like to try and push for the play-offs.”
The signing of Embery, who scored against Hythe, could prove a masterstroke if he stays fit.
A goal machine all through youth football and then with Herne Bay in Isthmian South East, injuries hit his chances at hometown club Maidstone.
Saunders said: “He’s come in after a long time out.
“I knew he was a goalscorer - I remember watching him at Herne Bay when I was at Maidstone, umming and aahing over whether he was ready for the National League.
“John Still took a chance and unfortunately he had injuries and it didn’t work out for him.
“He picked up a calf injury here, which happens when you’ve had a long time off, but he looked sharp and hungry when he came on against Hythe.
“He’s someone who gives us another option but it’s important we make sure he’s fit and ease him in.
“He’s not ready to do 90 minutes yet, so it might be we get a good 60 or 70 out of him or we bring him on for the last half-hour while he’s getting up to speed.”