Hendon boss gives Green light for play-off challenge ahead of Ryman League opener
- Credit: Archant
Hendon manager Gary McCann is targeting the play-offs as the Greens prepare to kick off their Premier Division campaign at home against Bury Town on Saturday.
Last season, the Dons were the form team during the middle two-thirds of the campaign, but they will be looking to improve on their record at the start and finish and consistency will be the keyword for the manager as he aims for a place in the top five.
“The play-offs are a reasonable target, and we have to get the players to buy into it,” said McCann, who will complete a decade in charge of the club in February. “There is a strong belief in the camp that it can be achieved.
“The start of the season is key for us, as it is for every team. The players are fully aware of it and we left ourselves too much to do after the poor start [last season].
“One of the reasons we fell away at the end of last season was the amount of effort we spent playing catch-up, and niggles and injuries caught up with us. But I honestly believe that this group of players can achieve the play-offs.”
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Hendon have endured much turmoil since McCann took charge, losing their Claremont Road home in 2008 and then spending four full seasons at Wembley. This is the second at Earlsmead, the home of Harrow Borough.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel since new director Rob Morris came on board in February this year.
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Hendon will now be running more than a dozen youth teams, based at what was Kingsbury Town’s old Silver Jubilee Park ground – which Morris part-owns and is currently being refurbished to include a 3G playing surface.
The plans are for it to be the Greens’ regular training base and, hopefully, a regular home some time in the future.
On the field, most of last season’s squad have agreed to stay on, but the Dons have lost Jack Bennett, Michael Bryan, Anthony Thomas, Berkley Laurencin and earlier departure Jefferson Louis.
Coach Junior Lewis has also left to take up the same role with Leeds United in the Championship, being replaced in the management team by former club captain Scott Cousins, who joins McCann, his assistant Freddie Hyatt and sports therapist Mark Findley.
Cousins will be registered as a player but, having missed most of last season through injury, he has concentrated on the training side in pre-season and will play only in an emergency.
Incoming players include strikers Kezie Ibe and Richard Worrell – who has moved across north London from Haringey Borough – as well as midfielders Peter Dean, who is returning for a second spell at the club, Tom O’Regan, Andre Da Costa and Sam Murphy.
The Dons’ defence was a source of strength for most of the last campaign and there has only been one addition to the rearguard.
Ollie Sprague was dually registered in 2013–14, making his debut in April – and he joins Chris Seeby, Casey Maclaren, James Fisher, Elliott Brathwaite and Sam Flegg in the back line.
Captain Kevin Maclaren will anchor the midfield with Lee O’Leary, who has had an excellent pre-season, while Dean, Tony Taggart and Michael Murray will operate further forward. The Greens also have Max McCann in midfield and the versatile Dave Diedhiou, who can fill in at full-back and in the centre of defence.
It will be tough for Hendon to replace the 43 goals that they have lost with the departures of Thomas and Louis.
However, Ibe, Leon Smith, Aaron Morgan and Adam Wallace have plenty of experience in the Ryman Premier League and new signing Worrell was prolific at the end of last season for Haringey Borough in the Essex Senior League.
In goal is likely to be youngster George Legg, who is currently an apprentice at Championship club Reading. He has played in most of the games during pre-season and would be on loan from the Royals.