St Albans City boss believes squad is ready to compete after signings of Loick Pires and John Kyriacou

John Frendo will partner Loick Pires next season: Robert Walkley

John Frendo will partner Loick Pires next season: Robert Walkley

First published in Sport

St Albans City joint manager James Gray believes the squad are ready to compete in the Conference South next season after their four signings this summer.

The Saints brought in goalkeeper Joe Welch last week and followed this up by signing striker Loick Pires and Chesham United right-back John Kyriacou.

Their first transfer activity saw City bring midfielder Lee Clarke back to the club and their manager believes the additions have given them the quality to hold their own at a higher level next season following promotion.

Gray said: “We set ourselves the targets of getting the signings done early because we didn’t want to leave it too late. We can’t wait to get going again. We've got competition all over the pitch and added experience with players like Clarke.

“We identified four positions and we have managed to get in the players we wanted so we’re very happy with the squad.

“It’s going to be a tough season but if we can hit the ground running then I would expect us to have another good year.”

Pires started off as a youth player with Stoke City before joining Leyton Orient.

The 24-year-old then spent two successful seasons with Welling United before moving to Woking. Pires had a second spell with Welling last season but it was an injury disrupted campaign. He also joined Boreham Wood on loan twice.

Gray said: “We are over the moon to get our man. We have been chasing him for over a year but last season he opted to stay and play at a higher level.

“He is a different type of player to what we have here. He’s tall and athletic and likes to get in behind and come off the shoulder. He’s quick and strong and hopefully we can get him firing.

“Although he can play on the wing and is versatile, we've had a chat and we are going to give him the reins to play up the middle along with John Frendo.”

The Saints brought in Kyriacou this week from beaten play-off finalists Chesham and Gray believes he will offer a real attacking threat.

The manager said: “We wanted to add an attacking full-back and with Howard Hall here already there will be competition for places.

“I was really impressed with John last season including in the final and he will offer us great attacking prowess.”

Welch, who was born in Welwyn Garden City, has been signed to replace Saints legend Paul Bastock.

The 25-year-old shot stopper played more than 50 games in the Conference for Histon before spells with Stevenage and Ebbsfleet United.

The keeper moved to Bromley two years ago and was named the supporters’ player of the year in 2012-13.

Gray said: “He is a great lad and is the right age. Bazza did superbly for us but Joe is a local lad and is able to commit more time than he can.

“We were looking to bring the average age of the squad down, not just for next season but for the next two to three years.

“He is a big, strong lad and very experienced at this level. He will be a great addition.”

The Saints have also agreed new contracts with defender Hall and young keeper Tom Coulton.

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