Cornard United assistant manager Jack Wignall is likely to play a prominent part on the field this season.
Wignall has played in a number of pre-season games for the Blackhouse Lane club, and manager Chris Tracey feels his leadership on the field will pay dividends for the Ards.
Cornard kick off the new Thurlow Nunn League First Division season with a home match against Downham Town on Saturday (3pm), a team who did the league double over them last season.
On Tuesday they visit newcomers Holland FC, and the following Saturday Diss Town are the opposition at Blackhouse Lane.
“It’s a tough start,” said Tracey. “We hope to hit the ground running and pick up a few wins early on. Do that and your confidence grows.”
Pre-season has been “up and down” with some games called off at short notice, but with some new faces in the squad, Tracey is optimistic that there will be an improvement on last season, the club finishing fifth from bottom.
“Our aim is to improve each season,” said Tracey. “The club was on its knees three years ago, but a lot effort has gone on behind the scenes, and we want to make those efforts worthwhile. I am quietly optimistic that we will do that.”
Cornard have a new ‘keeper in Rob Fleming, who has returned from Australia where he played professionally.
Colin Athey, club vice-chairman, who has shared the goalkeeping duties with several others over the last few seasons, has indicated that he will not be available for selection this season.
Forward Jake Buckland has joined from Coggeshall and Charlie Knight returns to the club.
James Beckett and Romario Dunn have left the club, the latter signing for Heybridge Swifts.
Shawn Melarkey misses the first two games through suspension.
Tracey is hoping for a run in the FA Vase, although a trip to Spartan South Midlands League Broxbourne Borough on September 10 promises to be tough.