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Spalding United manager Gabriel Zakuani is looking forward to the new Northern Premier League season




Excitement is building as Spalding United's preparations for the new campaign continue to gather pace.

Following the eye-catching signing of Marcus Maddison last week, the Tulips also discovered next season's opposition in the newly-created Northern Premier League Midlands Division.

The new campaign will be manager Gabriel Zakuani's first full season in charge after the coronavirus pandemic curtailed last term following his appointment at the end of October.

Gabriel Zakuani (47579817)
Gabriel Zakuani (47579817)

And the former Peterborough United, Gillingham and Leyton Orient defender is relishing the challenges ahead.

He said: "Everything is coming together very nicely.

"We have had a lot of time due to the pandemic and we have been preparing for so long but, with the league structures now out, there is some sort of clarity and everyone is getting excited now.

"Myself, the staff and the boys can't wait to get going."

Spalding will line up alongside some familiar foes next season in the likes of Stamford, Wisbech and Ilkeston.

However, the revamp of the league does mean shorter trips with the likes of Yaxley, Histon and Cambridge City moving into the division.

Zakuani commented: "The travelling has worked well for us but, looking at the teams, it is a very strong league.

"There are teams with ambition who are going for it with a lot of experienced managers.

"It is going to be a test and we will have to get it right on the pitch.

"The players from last season will get the opportunity to show what they can do, but I will be dabbling a bit in pre-season.

"I am probably one or two short of being fully satisfied but I will give everyone the chance to earn their shirt.

"The signing of Marcus will hopefully raise the others players' game as well as alongside Gregg Smith and Nathan Stainfield who will be key players for me.

Marcus Maddison (centre) in action for Posh against Gillingham.
Marcus Maddison (centre) in action for Posh against Gillingham.

"I have got a good core of players from last season and I feel that we have a strong base."

The Tulips will return to pre-season training next month but Zakuani has already been putting his players through their paces in one-to-one sessions.

He explained: "I come from a professional background so it is no longer about going into pre-season to get fit. You need to be fit before pre-season starts.

"I am bringing a totally different mentality. We have got heart-rate monitors and GPS trackers which is a culture shock to some of the boys but they will get used to it.

"It is beneficial and I don't think I have ever written down so many notes - even since I was at school.

"It is a totally different world because football has turned very scientific now and I need to get with the programme to know exactly who is doing what and who is putting the yards in."

Gregg Smith with Tulips boss Gabriel Zakuani. (47579930)
Gregg Smith with Tulips boss Gabriel Zakuani. (47579930)

Zakuani's role at Spalding is his first taste of management and he has used his Peterborough United connections to help assemble his backroom team.

Bruno Porfirio has joined as the new first team coach while Neal Lattimore is their fitness coach.

Ben Derbyshire has recently joined the Tulips as goalkeeper coach with assistant boss Neal Spafford again working alongside Zakuani.

He added: "The key thing that I have learned about management is that recruitment is the key.

"We have to recruit properly. It is good to have other people giving their ideas and talking from their experience.

"They are people that I trust and it's been a good transition. We have got a solid team who are communicating together every day.

"Since coming to the club, it does make you realise how hard people work at this level to make things happen.

"I do feel like I'm starting an apprenticeship again where you have to get down and dirty to make things happen by bobbing and weaving.

"You have to use your initiative but it is adding a lot to my tools and I am learning every day so I'm enjoying it."



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