‘Earn your shirt’ says Town boss ahead of pre-season friendlies, which begin tonight

Banbridge Town boss Ryan Watson says his players can use pre-season to earn themselves a starting spot come the beginning of the league campaign.

Town’s pre-season begins tonight (Tuesday) as they travel to the Newry Showgrounds to take on Newry City AFC (kick-off 7.30pm).

At the time of going to press, Watson was still trying to arrange a game for Saturday afternoon as their proposed game with a Dundalk Select side was unlikely to go ahead due to the Irish side’s progression in the Europa League.

As he prepared for the beginning of his side’s friendly fixtures, Watson warned players they’d have to fight for a place in the starting XI.

“We’ve got a good squad assembled and this will be a good chance for people to stake their claims for a jersey come the league season but we’ll be getting as many players on the pitch as possible,” he said.

Watson’s side last season began the campaign in stunning style, winning nine of their opening 12 league games. This time round, he’s hoping to replicate that start.

“It’s a very, very important time of the year for me,” he said.

“It’s key to how we start the year. Last season, we got a really good pre-season behind us and that helped us going into the first run of games. Looking back, we got a few wins in that period last year so we’ll try and do that again.

“If we look back to last year, the training went well and we got a good look at individual players and different systems that we can use come the proper season. We’ll have a look a different bits and pieces that we can take into the league campaign.

“You can’t read into results too much. It’s nice to pick up a few goods results and score a few goals but it’s really all about getting the match fitness and confidence up. It would be nice to go into the season with a of momentum built up as well.

“It’s tough as well because players are away on holidays and things and you just have to work with what you’ve got.”

Tonight’s opponents Newry City AFC are now just one promotion away from Town’s Championship Two after they won promotion to Intermediate A in the Mid-Ulster Football League last season.

“Their boss Darren Mullan has done a similar job that I did last year in rebuilding his team,” said Watson. “They have former Town man Paul Donegan and they’ve also signed Keith Johnston, who was with Warrenpoint when they were promoted to the Premiership.

“They have good facilities and a great pitch so it’s a good place for us to begin our pre-season.”