MARK MAGUIRE believes Chester’s reputation as a club on the rise is highlighted by their summer signings.
The Blues have been busier than most since the 2016/17 National League season ended in dismal fashion with a 19th placed finish, securing eight new arrivals in the shape of strikers Ross Hannah, Harry White and Nyal Bell, as well as ex-Macclesfield quartet Kingsley James, Andy Halls, John McCombe and Paul Turnbull, who arrived last week from Barrow, plus left-back Lathaniel Rowe-Turner.
The cloud of negativity which hung over the club six weeks ago has certainly been lifted off the pitch, with Blues’ fans airing their delight across social media with the recent acquisitions, with Hannah’s return yielding a notably positive reaction amongst the faithful.
Chief executive Maguire feels Chester’s ability to prize players away from rival clubs in the north-west such as Barrow and Macclesfield, is a ‘massive statement of intent’ ahead of the new campaign.
“It’s been a massive statement of our intent to move forward as a club,” he said.
“We feel the recent signings highlight what we’re trying to achieve as a club. We’ve got a burgeoning reputation as to how we go about our business and I think that’s a key reason why players are choosing Chester.
“We’ve gained that respect and the players arriving at the club are buying into what we want to do here.
“There’s massive ambition here from myself, down to the manager, the staff and the volunteers and I’m encouraged by the progress we’re making.
“It’s testament to the work we’re doing that we’ve been able to attract players of the calibre of Ross Hannah and Andy Halls. I know from reading an interview with Andy that he was impressed by the professionalism when he came to meet us and that’s what we’re trying to establish at the club.”
Maguire hailed the addition of 32-year-old forward Hannah, a proven goalscorer who notched 26 goals for Chester in the 2015/16 season, and suggested there will be further ‘exciting additions’ in the coming weeks as Jon McCarthy’s first-team squad takes shape.
“We recognised there were areas towards the end of last season where we needed to significantly strengthen the squad and I think we’ve shown we’re willing to pay that little bit more to ensure the manager has the support that’s needed for next season,” continued Maguire, who was in Newport last weekend to represent the Blues at the National League’s AGM, where he was one of 22 of the National League club’s representatives to vote for the motion to expand the play-offs to six teams from next season.
“Not only have we retained members of last year’s team but we feel we’ve made some exciting additions and I believe there will be more to come in the coming weeks.
“Ross’ return is proving hugely popular and we needed to make that connection with the supporters. Hopefully they will recognise the steps we’re making and how we’re gradually shaping the business and the club.”
Chester receieved a major windfall last week with the sale of highly-rated 20-year-old Sam Hughes to Leicester City, for a fee understood to be in the region of £125,000, with a string of add-ons which the Blues could benefit from in the future if Hughes becomes an established Premier League player.
Maguire admitted Hughes’ sale has certainly ‘helped’ increase McCarthy’s budget for the forthcoming campaign, but stressed the need to build a squad using sustainable methods.
”It’s fantastic news for the club and fantastic for Sam, we’re over the moon for him,” Maguire continued.
”The fee from Sam’s sale obviously helps the club in various ways, but we can’t build a first-team budget around selling players, we’ve based Jon’s budget on increasing our revenue across the club, commercial revenue, sponsorship and ticket sales.
”There may be some money from Sam’s sale available to use, but more realistically we may look to reinvest any money we bring in for James Alabi, if and when he moves on.”
Season tickets have now been on-sale for three weeks and Maguire revealed he is ‘encouraged’ by early sales figures, while stressing the need to win back the support of fans who witnessed eight consecutive home defeats at the end of last term.
“I’m really encouraged by the early sales we’ve seen in terms of season tickets,” he added.
“We’ve made a concerted effort to engage with the fans and we’ve written to all existing season ticket holders to stress to them their importance to what we’re trying to achieve.
”We’re not quite at the stage to release figures yet but the early signs are very encouraging. Over 10 per cent of tickets purchased so far are brand new season ticket holders so that’s really positive from our point of view.
“I’ve been down to the ticket office and seen families down there this past week taking advantage of the free season ticket offer for under 12s and that is really exciting to see people taking that offer up.”
See full story in the Chester Leader