THE new broom continues to sweep clean at Valley Parade.
But arguably nobody has bigger boots to fill this season than Billy Knott, the midfield tyro brought in to provide the non-stop engine previously provided by Gary Jones.
Sixteen years Jones’ junior, the early indications are that Knott will be the one bombing around the pitch looking to cover every blade of grass in the same manner that made the former captain such an iconic figure with the City faithful.
“No pressure!” laughed Knott, who clearly has an infectious enthusiasm for the game that Jones would be proud of.
“I’ve heard a lot about the old skipper and he was obviously a great player. He did a lot for this club and the fans will always love him for taking them to Wembley and winning promotion.
“He’s the type of player you have to look up to and deserves massive credit. He’s 37, has played a lot of games in his career and is still going strong.
“He obviously put himself about during his time at the club. But the manager has brought in some fresher legs this season and I’m part of that.”
Those fans that have made the trip to Ireland this week caught a little snap-shot of Knott’s willing attitude during Tuesday’s friendly.
Giving the ball away during his second-half outing against UCD, he immediately set off in fierce pursuit to harry the opponent and reclaim possession.
Jones would have nodded in appreciation at that willingness to make amends – but Knott insists there is a lot more to his individual game.
The youngster schooled in the Premier League academy system could be a major player in the shift to a more fluid philosophy for the coming campaign.
“We want to get the ball down a bit more and start enjoying the ball at our feet, instead of having to chase it,” said Knott.
“It will take a lot of time to gel but when it does, I’m sure we will be a very good squad.
“You’ve seen the other players who have come in and they all have great ability. Lidds (Gary Liddle), Billy Clarke, Matty Dolan and Alan Sheehan are all very comfortable on the ball.
“If you get the attention away from (James) Hanson a little bit and then use him at the right times, it will work very well. The gaffer is trying to do that a bit more this season. That’s why he has brought in players who want the ball and like to keep it.
“You don’t want to be running around chasing the whole game. You want to be on the ball and enjoy having the majority of possession.
“When we start doing that and the gaffer finds his right team and formation, then hopefully it will be a good season.”
Phil Parkinson has been impressed with the early signs from the midfielder, who should be fine to face Shelbourne this afternoon after shaking off a whack on the ankle.
Parkinson said: “We know Billy is a good all-round footballer. He’s good on the ball and has the ability to close down quickly as well.
“He’s been out on loan since he was a young kid, so he has had league experience and he’s played at this level.
So far, he’s settled in well.”