TULIPS: Spalding ready to be title challengers

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PAT Rayment has admitted that his summer signing spree has put Spalding United in a position to compete for the United Counties League Premier Division title this season.

Stellar names like Francis Green, Shane Tolley and Lee Canoville have inked terms with the Tulips over the summer – and they’ll be among 25 players to report for pre-season training at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field tonight.

This time 12 months ago, then Spalding boss Andy Stanhope and chairman Chris Toynton were adamant that the club would make an immediate return to the Evo-Stik League.

But Rayment, appointed after Stanhope was sacked for overseeing a poor first half of the season, is refusing to get too carried away.

The ex-Peterborough United professional concedes his charges will be considered favourites by many, but won’t be making any bold statements.

“I couldn’t be more excited ahead of the new season,” said Rayment, who is ready for his first full campaign as Spalding supremo. “We’ve got ten pre-season games to craft the side and get everybody settled in.

“It’ll be full throttle from the first training session to the final game of the season – and I can’t wait to get going.

“The pressure is on everyone who wants a place in the team. We’ll be doing things properly and will have no room for passengers. You only need to look at St Ives last season. If you’re successful, you’ll have to play 65-70 games. I’m aware that other managers will consider us favourites. We’ll probably have as many of them watching us over pre-season as there will be fans!

“There are some strong sides in this league, but we’ve put ourselves in the position to challenge for the title, no more than that.”

Tonight’s maiden training session will be the first time Rayment has clapped eyes on a few of his recent recruits, having signed a number of them off the back of recommendations from trusted contacts.

Among those he hasn’t seen will be Danny Steadman, the former Stamford and Grantham Town midfielder who had a brief spell with Spalding the season before last.

The versatile ace is one of a number of players to have contacted Rayment with a view to trying out for the ambitious Tulips. Two of the others are players who deserted the club after their poor start to last season.

Young hot-shot Conor Murphy, who has caught the eye after a number of goal-laden showings for Peterborough Regional College, will also be put through his paces. He comes with a glowing reference from former Posh legend David Farrell.

Miles Chamberlain will report for duty too, despite internet rumours linking him with King’s Lynn Town.

Rayment described the rumours as “nonsense” – and revealed he is on a two-year contract.

One of Rayment’s top goals when he took the Halley Stewart reins was to change the perception people have of the club – and it’s looking like a case of so far, so good.

He added: “We’ve obviously handed contracts to some of the bigger names to entice them to the club, but we’ve gone about our business in the right way. It’s been interesting really. When I took over it was a hard sell to get anybody to come here. Now we’ve got people contacting us. I’ve had to tell a few players that there’s just no room for them at Spalding.

“The most exciting thing for me will be seeing some of the players I don’t know too much about. I’ve brought in a number of them off the back of opinions from people I really trust. Hopefully I’ll still trust them when I see the players!”

Spalding’s first pre-season match is at home against Moulton Harrox on Saturday week (3pm).