St Albans alive as buzz builds for the challenges of NPL

Chris May has joined St Albans Saints. Picture Damian Visentini

St Albans Saints will march into their first NPL soccer campaign with a positive outlook and high confidence of making an impact.

With his side achieving promotion to the NPL by winning the NPL2 west this year, coach Kruni Razov said the overwhelming feeling at the club was excitement.

“There’s a huge buzz around the place,” he said. “The juniors have just finished their trials … we had an abundance of kids turn up. The whole club is absolutely looking forward to the challenge of the NPL.”

The majority of players on the Saints’ 2016 roster have already re-signed, with big names Michael Grgic, Ben Shaper, Rodrigo Covarrubias, Nana Yaw Otuo and Nick Sarbin all recommitting for the 2017 season.

The Saints have also announced their first new player, with former Melbourne Knights and Avondale FC goalkeeper Chris May making his way to Churchill Reserve.

May brings crucial NPL experience to the Saints as the jump in standard is set to test the newcomers.

“Most of the boys from this year are going around again, which is great for the club,” Razov said.

“We probably need four or five players, and especially players with experience at that level. The players we’re targeting will help to guide this younger list and hopefully keep us in the top tier.”

Razov took the reigns of the club mid-season this year after Zeljko Kuzman departed. He previously coached the club six years ago.

He said that with half a season of coaching the club behind him and a full pre-season ahead, he felt better prepared.

“You live and you learn from your mistakes, and I think we all learnt plenty last season,” he said.

“We’re all a bit smarter and wiser now.

“I think we need to be patient and keep developing this squad to compete at this new level.

“We’ll keep playing a pretty open game. We’ll keep trying to score goals, because you can’t win without them, but we’ll be a lot more structured defensively next year.”

While Razov is confident ahead of the new season, he isn’t setting the bar too high.

“Our main goal, naturally, is just to survive this first year,” he said.

“I believe the squad we are assembling is good enough to survive, but you never really know until you start.

“If we can survive the first year, it’s a huge bonus for the club.”