Please keep off the grass - Eagles' message

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Replacing leading scorer Marcus Edwards is one of the many tasks facing director of football Mark Ellis Replacing leading scorer Marcus Edwards is one of the many tasks facing director of football Mark Ellis

THE preparation for the coming season may be low-key for Eccleshill United but the West Riding County Cup holders will have a carpet of a surface to begin the new campaign on.

Extensive work has taken place on the playing arena at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium over the close season and the club want to ensure they do not allow it to be used too soon.

Eccleshill football chairman Adrian Benson said: "There have been a lot of things to consider so the decision not to have any friendly games was not one that was taken lightly.

"Obviously if the possibility of a big money-spinning game against a Football League club or one of the top local Conference League clubs had been on the table, we might have been tempted. But that type of game didn't present itself so we chose not to play at home.

"At this time of the season, lots of clubs are in the same position. They have had work done on their pitch and they are protecting it.

"A lot of clubs would have played us but only at home and of the ones that we could have travelled to, none really offered a challenge.

"Mark Ellis, our director of football, wanted to face clubs from a higher level so that the games would be a genuine test to our squad.

"With no disrespect to the clubs that did offer us friendly games, Mark felt they would not have given the players the kind of work-out they needed or that he wanted to see them taking on."

Former Bantams winger Ellis has spent a lot of the close season in the United States looking at new players who are bidding to be on the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy (RIASA) programme.

Some of the RIASA recruits from the last crop have signed for professional clubs in Europe, while a lot have returned to their native countries.

The programme is not just open to prospective players from America. In fact, one of the best-known former recruits is Bermudian Nahki Wells.

Benson said: "Mark has been very busy over the summer and there are several issues that have needed sorting out.

"He has to get the RIASA players registered, we have lost Marcus Edwards and Jermaine Springer and there are still things to sort out regarding the first-team management structure.

"With Mark having so much on his plate, he hasn't had time to sift through the pre-season friendly list, so he has decided that the squad will play some in-house practice games at the 4G pitch in Leeds that the RIASA players use to train on during the week.

"That should give him time to assess which of them will be part of Eccleshill's first-team squad and it will give the players enough football before the new season begins.

"We finished fourth (Northern Counties East League Division One) last season and everyone here is hoping that we can do better and gain promotion this time."

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