Maidstone United boss Jay Saunders: My target will be can we finish top ten?

Sunday 17th July 2016

MAIDSTONE UNITED manager Jay Saunders says he is targeting the top ten in the National League this season.

The Stones were promoted from the Vanarama National League South at the first attempt after beating Truro City and Ebbsfleet United in the play-offs after finishing in third-place.

The club have come a long way since beating Sevenoaks Town 4-0 at Greatness Park to win the Kent League title 10 years ago and it’s been a very successful four years since moving back home.

“I’ve been told it’s four years when we moved in and played Brighton so we’ve had a few good years there,” said Saunders.

“If you speak to any non-league player, they obviously want to play in the League but if they’re playing non-league football they want to play the highest they can and that’s the National. We’ve managed to get there, there’s a buzz between the boys and we’re looking forward to it.”

Maidstone United open their Vanarama National League campaign with a televised home game against relegated York City on Saturday 6 August (12:15).  The game has been made ALL-TICKET.

“York are ex-League two, it’s one we can look forward to and they’re going to be a good side, no doubt about it,” said Saunders.  “They’ve signed a lot of players so they’ll be looking to bounce straight back up.

“I’m sure if you spoke to Terry Casey, Oliver Ash and Bill Williams and said that four years ago when we moved in and had that first game in four years you’ll be playing in the National on TV, I don’t think they’d believe it, nor would I or would a lot of supporters I wouldn’t have thought.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and everyone pulling together and it’s going to be a day that we can really look forward to and hopefully at the same time get a good result.”

Last season, Bromley switched to training in the mornings to adapt to life in the National League and finished fourteenth in their debut season.

Braintree Town and Dover Athletic were part-time outfits and trained at night and finished third and fifth respectively, only to lose out to Grimsby Town (who went up to League Two) and Forest Green Rovers in the two-legged play-offs.

“It’s going to be tougher, the fitness levels are going to be better. We’re staying at two nights a week. There’s a lot of teams that do a minimum of three, we’re staying night training, we’re staying exactly where we were,” revealed Saunders.

“My main thing is if we would’ve gone mornings, I think we would’ve lost a lot of my squad, a lot of my players who are very important to us.  I know Dover do evenings and I think it’s a way I can keep the majority of my squad together.  I’m not saying in the future we’re not going to look at it but certainly this year it’s certainly the right decision for us.

“We know it’s going to be hard. We’ve got a young squad but with a bit of experience in there as well. I know it’s going to be hard, time will tell but I’m confident if we can get a good start, then we’ll be ok.”

Saunders has set the club a top-ten target.

“My target will be can we finish top ten?

“I said last year going up in a league (National League South), I wanted to try to make play-offs and everyone sort of laughed a little bit and said ‘let’s just stay up’, but I’d like to finish in the top ten.

“It’s going to be a hell of a task. I know it is and I’m not silly but I think we’ve got to set ourselves a task and I hate to say let’s go up and try to stay in the league because we don’t want to do that as a club. We’ve done well, we’ve had success and we’ll do the same again and we’ll go up and have a real good go at it and I believe if we do that there’s no reason why we can’t get up and around that top 10.

“If you look at the likes of Braintree and Dover they’re part-time clubs, they done it last year and they’ve all had good seasons and Bromley. There’s no reason why we can’t do it as well.

“We are with the big boys now. Everyone said it’s a tough start but I don’t think there would’ve been an easy start if you generally look at it and go what easy games are there? There is not, so we’ll look forward to it.  You’re going to some proper stadiums, up against some good managers and we’re really looking forward to it as a club.”

The Stones travel to former landlords Ashford United on Tuesday night, after playing Folkestone Invicta (6-1), Sevenoaks Town (1-1) and Welling United (4-0), away from home so far this pre-season.

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