Athletic back in action tonight

Reporter: Simon Smedley
Date published: 10 July 2018

Following last season’s traumatic relegation from League One, Athletic’s new-look squad – and manager Frankie Bunn – are finally back in action tonight (Tuesday).

Bunn, who replaced the sacked Richie Wellens last month, takes his players to Hurst Cross to take on Ashton United for the first pre-season warm-up fixture (7.45pm kick-off).

New signings Jose Baxter, Sam Graham and Johan Branger are all set to get some game-time.

“It’s the first game, there will be a bit of tension, a bit of nerves because the players have been off for two months,” Bunn said.

“Just to come through the game with a clean bill of health is all I’m after.

“We’ll be looking for a bit of fitness and maybe some signs of what we’re trying to do.

“We’ll then ask more of the players physically and tactically as the pre-season games go on.”

With a number of players having exited Boundary Park since May, Bunn – and his assistant Andy Rhodes – are working hard to recruit more new players, ones who will hopefully cut the mustard in League Two as the club returns to the fourth tier for the first time in decades.

Asked about the current recruitment situation, Bunn added: “The phone never stops ringing. We’re trying to get players through the door and over the line.

“That’s a bit difficult at the moment. Players have chosen other clubs.

“We’ve spoken to three or four goalkeepers, and we are continuing our search for players.

“We need four or five in the building as quickly as possible, but we’re not going to rush.

“We’ve got a good young player in from Sheffield United (Graham), but going back to when I played, Joe Royle went out and got some quality youngsters, the likes of Earl Barrett, Paul Warhurst and Ian Marshall.

“They were from other people’s reserve teams, and I think that’s what we’ve got to get to.

“Hopefully we can try and spot young talent that we can develop in our way.

“Having said that, we are trying to create a nice blend and mixture. We’re not going to play all kids.

“We need a nice blend around these lads.”

Athletic’s next pre-season fixture is away at Curzon Ashton on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

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