The below article has been reproduced by kind permission from Danny Rust at the Thurrock Gazette
GRAYS Athletic boss Jim Cooper insists he will settle for nothing less than promotion from the Isthmian North in the forthcoming season.
Cooper replaced Jamie Stuart in the Grays hotseat in February. And he is keen to enjoy success during his first full campaign at the helm.
The former Metropolitan Police chief said: “We are going for promotion.The players already know that because I told them that was our aim when we came back for pre-season training.
Whether we win promotion by claiming the title or through the play-offs doesn’t matter, but we are looking to get promoted come the end of the season.
We finished 30 points adrift of Bowers & Pitsea last term. I know they ran away with the league, but that isn’t good enough and it’s up to us to make sure we are in contention this season."
Grays will be involved in their first pre-season friendly of the summer when Isthmian Premier League side Hornchurch visit Parkside on Saturday.
And Cooper is pleased with his squad’s fitness levels heading into the encounter, which will kick-off at 1pm.
“Pre-season training has been going very well so far, We held an open training session at the weekend and it was great to see so many fans there.
I’m happy with the progress that has been made because the training regime was something that worried me when I first came in as manager.
We decided that we needed to get the fitness levels raised to the standards we are happy with.
Now we have a completely new squad and it’s good to see that they have got stuck in straightaway.”
There have been numerous departures and arrivals during the close season, with Cooper keen to put his stamp on the squad.
And, having set his sights on promotion to the third tier of non-league football, is overjoyed after strengthening his backline ahead of the upcoming campaign.
“I’m very happy with the squad at the moment,” admitted Cooper.
“We made a decision at the end of the season that we needed to change the whole back four and goalkeeper.
“Despite how well Clarke Bogard did in goal for us last season, we wanted a goalkeeper that could play out from the back.
“Danny Sambridge has great experience and is someone who will be able to start attacks from the back.
“I’m delighted with the back four that we have going into the new season and that was an area I was particularly interested in strengthening because we leaked too many goals.
“We have brought in some good players and now we can’t wait for the new season to get underway.”