Colchester United are set to provide an early test of AFC Sudbury’s new-look squad in a late additional to their build-up to the new season.
The Sky Bet League One club are set to bring their first-team squad to the newly-sponsored King’s Marsh ground — now set to be known as The Wardale Williams Stadium — a week today (July 17, 7.45pm).
With Norwich City Academy (July 24, 7.30pm), Cambridge United (August 1, 3pm) and Ipswich Town (August 5, 7.45pm) already set to visit, it takes the number of Football League clubs facing AFC in pre-season up to four.
“It is one you cannot turn down,” said manager David Batch, whose side get their warm-up games under way on Saturday with a trip to Diss Town (3pm) before hosting Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division champions Hadleigh United on Tuesday (7.45pm). “They will bring their first-team down and hopefully it will bring some fans down.”
Colchester boss Joe Dunne praised the ‘fantastic’ facilities at AFC after making a first visit a year ago in a 5-0 victory.
And Batch, who will field a mixture of first-team and youth players on Saturday and Tuesday, believes they will learn a lot from a tough 90 minutes against a professional outfit.
“The purpose of pre-season is to get some fitness in and we will certainly see what we look like defensively,” he said. “When you are playing good sides it highlights areas we need to improve on and at least we can see that early on, rather than 10 games in.”
Batch currently has three trialists at the club with professional backgrounds and is set to field two of those, who have had long spells on the sidelines, in tomorrow’s reserves friendly with Bury-based Sporting 87 on the training pitch.
“You can clearly see they have quality and it is just a question of whether they can get to the level we want fitness-wise for the level we play at,” he said.
Defender or midfielder Scott Mitchell has been given permission to talk to higher-league Leiston, after the Ryman Premier club came back in for the former Ipswich Town player last week.
Meanwhile, the club this week announced independent Sudbury Opticians Wardales Williams, in Gainsborough Street, have signed a three-year deal to take over the naming rights of the stadium, after The MEL Group ended a 37-year association as club sponsors at the end of last season.
Director Richard Instance said: “From our point-of-view we are delighted.
“The managing director (Jonathan Foreman) was a local boy who moved away and then came back into the area a few years ago.
“It is a partnership which will bring benefits to both of us.”
He revealed there will be a separate shirt sponsor this season, with talks still ongoing.
AFC have been drawn to play away at fellow Ryman One North side Redbridge in the preliminary round of the FA Cup on August 30 (3pm), with a home tie against FC Romania, Haverhill Rovers or Heybridge Swifts in the first qualifying round on August 16 (3pm).
In the FA Trophy, AFC face a journey down to Kent to face Ryman One South side Whitstable Town on October 18 (3pm), with the winners away to Bognor Regis Town on November 1 (3pm).
AFC Sudbury Reserves will open their Thurlow Nunn League First Division campaign up in a curtain-raiser on Friday, August 8 (7.45pm) with new boss Danny Laws and assistant Dave Cannon travelling back to former club Leiston to face their reserves.
* The week 10 winners of the AFC Gold fund-raiser are: £100 G Scott, Constitution Hill, Sudbury (224); £10 L Carter, Gaol Lane Sudbury (271), £10 K Morris, Boxted Rd, Colchester (235).