JON McCARTHY is confident he can bring in ‘three or four exciting players’ as Chester enter a crucial phase of summer recruitment.

The Blues reacted quickly at the end of last season to bring in Harry White and Nyal Bell, as well as securing new contracts for several key members of the first-team squad, ensuring a dozen players are already on the books for 2017/18.

However, McCarthy revealed Chester are now seeking to bring in a quartet of high quality players who he hopes will take his side to ‘the next level’, although he admits the Blues have limited control over their transfer targets at this stage, with fellow north-west clubs such as Tranmere, Barrow and Fylde also looking to bolster their squads.

“We’re into the second phase of our recruitment now and we’re looking at three or four quality players,” explained the 46-year-old, who remains hopeful club captain Luke George will sign a new deal with the Blues.

“A good proportion of our budget is going to go into these players and I think the players we’ve identified are exciting players.

“Can we get those players in and go onto that next level? That’s the challenge now. We’ve got to be brave, punch above our weight, this is the way we’ll move forward as a club. We’re talking the top end of our budget.

“We’re in a position now where unfortunately we don’t have a great deal of control over our targets. That’s just the way it is, we’ll regain that control as we get nearer to pre-season starting, things come back into our favour then.

“We’ve got the likes of Barrow, Fylde, Tranmere, Wrexham on our doorstep and we’re in competition with these clubs.

“We’re speaking to a number of players. We’ve got a strict criteria, we look at everything. We’ll look at their ability, character, that’s with anyone we’re interested in or anyone who comes to us.

“We fully understand that players are going to speak to other clubs and consider their options. If we’re able to do something at the end of that process, then it’s great, but we know it’s competitive out there at the moment.”

McCarthy insists Chester will be ‘brave’ when it comes to their spending in the coming weeks, but also admits the Blues won’t know their full budget until Sam Hughes and James Alabi depart the Deva Stadium.

The in-demand duo are both out-of-contract and look certain to leave, with Chester entitled to a tribunal hearing if they cannot agree a transfer fee with the interested parties.

“This is a key few weeks because we want to go out and bring in those three of four players who could make a huge difference to us. The aim is to have a stronger squad than we had at the start of last season,” he continued.

“We might not have the financial muscle but we’ve got the stadium, the history of the club, the fanbase, we’ve got to really sell ourselves.

“We’ll then take another look at the budget, it might be a case of seeing what is left. And a lot of how we approach the end of the transfer window will depend on what sort of money we’re able to get for Sam Hughes and James Alabi.

“But we’ve put ourselves in that good position by getting that core group. Ideally I’d want them to be all my own players but if we have to look at the loan market then we will.”

McCarthy admits the ‘core group’ of players who have signed new contracts has made his life easier ahead of next season and is looking forward to working with the club’s youngsters, including Matty Waters and talented trio James Jones, Nathan Brown and Tom Crawford, who have all penned their first professional deals.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to bring players in and get 12 names signed up for next season, we reacted quickly, we’ve planned towards the end of last season and we’ve got some business done early,” he added. “Last year we only had three signed on at this stage so to have that core group is really significant. 

“We’ve got 12 on board and we’re also able to look at working with the three younger lads who will be stepping into the first-team environment. Along with Matty Waters, they are three very good young prospects for the club.”