LUCA Havern has had to adjust to life without a couple of his best mates since returning to Bradford (Park Avenue)’s pre-season training, and the experienced defender admitted that made it all the more vital that he stayed put.

Fellow club stalwarts Mark Ross and Nicky Clee both left Avenue at the end of last season, with the loss of the former, his long-time centre-back partner, a particular blow.

Havern laughed: “I’ve only just got over mine and Rossy’s break up and now you’re bringing it up again.

“I was at his wedding earlier this summer and I’m meeting him this weekend actually.

“It was sad to see him go, because he was a great player for the club.

“To be fair, quite often Rossy would play right-back and Lundy (Mitch Lund) would be at centre-back, so I’ve still got a good partner with me.

“I wish Rossy well and who knows if that’s the end of his career, but I know his focus is his business right now.

"He’ll be a big miss, but we’ve got players ready to make that step up.

“I have to mention Nicky too, who’s another great friend of mine that I’ll miss.

“We’ve lost real experience but that’s why it’s good that the likes of me, Simon (Richman), OJ (Oli Johnson) and Adam (Nowakowski) are still here, to help those younger players come through.”

Havern added: “I’ve played for Mark (Bower) and Danny (Boshell) for four seasons, this will be my fifth, and at this level there’s no two people I trust more and who I’d rather play for.

“We know each other well, and I feel like we’ve built something as a team over the last two seasons too.

“Some players have stepped up, but progression is the aim and we’ve seen that with the likes of Lewis Knight, Isaac Marriott and Alex Hurst moving up the leagues over the last few years.

“We can give opportunities like that, and we want to see where those players can go, but there’s a core of about nine of us who’ve stayed from last season that can help guide the new players, just show them around and see how things are done at Bradford.”

Pre-season has been littered with trialists for Avenue, with Havern able to see them all at close quarters.

He said: “A few of our trialists have now signed for us permanently, and they’ve settled in, and we’ve had a few lads who probably showed they weren’t quite ready for the level.

“It’s not been a big shock to play alongside so many new faces, because that’s always the way in pre-season, and it’s good to play alongside new players and those that have come up from lower down.

“We’ve got big tests coming up against Scunthorpe and Guiseley next week, and that’ll give us a good idea of where we’re at.”

Havern will be Avenue’s captain again in the upcoming season, and he said: “There’s that continuity and progress that Mark wants from last season.

“But from what I’ve seen, there’s a few lads who could step into that role if and when needed, like Lundy, Simon and Jamie Spencer.

“They’ve been at this level for a while, and while they’re younger than me, they’ve got that experience.

“We have that nice mix of leaders and youth in the squad I think.”