Anchors return for Pre-Season Training

Stockton Town made their return to Pre-Season Training ahead of a historic debut campaign in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

The fresh new training kit, the fitness drills and the baking hot sun. Stockton Town were back on the pitch at the MAP Group UK Stadium for Pre-Season training.

Still fresh in the memory was the Play-Off Final win over Dunston just over two months ago. That game will be talked about at Stockton for time immemorial.

The management team had been presented with recognition at the Northern Premier League’s annual presentation on Sunday. Last season is firmly in the books and the focus starts on this season.

Michael Dunwell briefed the team ahead of training. The keenness to prove what they can do at Step Three was the clear message. This is something the club worked hard to achieve and it is hard to disguise the excitement.

Speaking on the return to Pre-Season, Dunwell said: “Yes I am excited. Looking forward to it. It doesn’t feel like we’ve had much time off with lots of meetings over the summer with current players and players leaving.”

The Anchors kept the majority of their playing squad together on the retained list. Defensive duo in Captain Adam Nicholson and Tom Coulthard remain at the core of Stockton Town as they were ten years ago when Stockton headed into a season where they achieved a clean sweep in the Wearside League.

There’s also valuable experience in Shane Henry, Tom Portas and Mikey Roberts who all have previous experience of playing at Step Three.

On keeping his squad together, Dunwell said: “It shows our intent that we’re not a club that just swaps and changes season after season and we have managed to keep a core.

“I think if we can add another two or possibly three we will have a good season.”

Such is the nature of a promotion season, there were a few departures. Callum Roberts, who made 156 appearances departed after five years. Dan McWilliams who left after making 169 appearances in five years. Peter Bulmer reached his century while at the club despite his sporadic availability due to the work. Dale Mulligan, who served as a brilliant deputy to Nicholson and Coulthard, also departed.

Speaking on those departures, Dunwell said: “Pete (Bulmer) was a non-contract player with his job but he was a great lad. Played 100 games for us and never let us down. It was sad to see him go because he’s always got a lot of knowledge being a scout at Brighton.”

“Callum (Roberts) had been here five years and had always been excellent for us. He helped us get through the leagues.”

“Dan Mac (McWilliams) brilliant for us and had been with us a long time. Came to us in the Northern League Division One and got that promotion and then this promotion.”

“Then Dale (Mulligan) what can you say about Dale. If you could have his attitude and his desire and put that into every player we have. We wouldn’t be far wrong.”

“Good luck to them in everything that they do.”

Stockton Town have made one signing so far this summer with the arrival of Arjun Purewal from Consett. The experienced defender adds competition to the defence and has nous of playing at Step Three.

On Purewal, Dunwell said: “As soon as we sat down with him it took only took thirty seconds to realise that he would be ideal for us.

“His experience in the leagues above will be vital. He brings that competition in for central defence and he can cover at full-back too. He is ideal for us and I expect him to be good for us.”

On the hunt for further signings, Dunwell said: “We normally have our squad settled for the start of Pre-Season but it’s a little different this year and a little more difficult. We have had many meetings some that are very close and then something just sticks in the way which blocks it. Whether that’s clubs were trying to sign them from or clubs coming in from higher leagues.

“We have go three or four players coming in on trial over Pre-Season from clubs they have been released from. Some Football League and leagues above us in Non-League.

“We’re still six or seven weeks from the start of the new season and we’re not worried we have made only one signing. Our squad is really strong anyway.”

The backing from the fans is already apparent ahead of the upcoming season with a remarkable number of season tickets sold. Over 300 up to now.

Touching on the fans, Dunwell said: “Hopefully we can crowds like did at the back end of last season as it would be absolutely massive for us. There’s going to be some big teams coming here the likes of Macclesfield. FC United of Manchester just to name a few. It will be great for the fans to experience that as well.”

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