You want to improve in your second season, says Maidstone United boss Jay Saunders
MAIDSTONE UNITED boss Jay Saunders says he is targeting the play-offs during their second season in the Vanarama National League.
The Stones finished in fourteenth-place last season and the successful Saunders reflected: “It’s a tough league, it’s a very good league to be involved in but it’s a very unforgiving league.
“Last year we had a decent enough start and we got found out a little bit and once we strengthened and got a bit of experience in, it really helps.
“It’s a season we’re looking forward to. We need to add to the squad but we’re in a better place, I think, than we were at the start of last season and if we can add two or three more then I think hopefully we can have a good season.”
When asked what he learnt from his first season managing in the top-flight of non-league football, Saunders replied: “Just there’s no easy games. When you looked at the Ryman and even the Conference South (as those Leagues were called at the time), you used to look at some games and think it’s some sort of three-pointer guaranteed.
“Last season, we went away and went to some places and got some good results and our home form was poor and we lost some games that we should have won. It’s a difficult league to be in and there’s some very good sides in it.
“We’ve got Kent derbies to look forward (against Bromley, Dover Athletic and Ebbsfleet United) to and it’s a season we’re looking forward to.”
Maidstone United kick-off their Vanarama National League debut with a home clash against Vanarama National League South champions Maidenhead United on Saturday 5 August.
“It’s a tough start. The first two months is a real difficult start. When you go through it we’ve got a lot of the team’s that were up there,” said Saunders.
“Last season we probably had an easier start and a really tough finish. This season is certainly full on, that’s why we’ve got to get the squad right and make sure when we’re called into action in those first couple of months.”
When asked about his aspirations for the season ahead, Saunders is looking to break into the top seven.
He said: “To improve on last year. I think you always want to do that, why not try to aim for the play-offs, why not try to do it?
“You have to set your targets high, if you don’t I think you’re silly but you always want to improve on next season.
“The likes of Bromley did, Smudge (Neil Smith) done well there and improved in their second season.
“You want to improve in your second season. You’ve got to set yourselves targets and be realistic in football. We want to do well. I want to do well. I’m not going to say that’s going to happen but that will be our aim and we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Saunders – like Bromley manager Smith – says having two extra play-off places is good for clubs like theirs who are in the second bracket of club’s in the division.
“It’s great for club’s lower down that possibly haven’t got the finances of the club’s at the top to maybe go and win the League so it opens it up for a little bit more,” said Saunders.
“It’s still going to be very tough to get in those play-off places. There’s some very experienced sides in this League, club’s that want to go on and get out of this League. I think it opens it up and gives other club’s a chance.”
Maidstone United’s chances of doing that have been enhanced by ditching evening training and training at home on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.
“It’s been great, really enjoyed it. You can see the sharpness in the morning, they’re much more switched on. It’s been a lot more enjoyable for us. We can get a lot more work done. We can work on a lot more shape and set-pieces and having an extra day will certainly help that.
“We’ll train three mornings to start with and we’ll see how it goes. It’s a little suck it and see at first as we’re doing things that might not work and we’ll have to change it. It’s certainly, so far, it’s been enjoyable.”
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