Youth will remain a priority with Ford

Jack Self has been ruled out for the opening four weeks of the new campaign
Jack Self has been ruled out for the opening four weeks of the new campaign

Banbury United boss Mike Ford is committed to giving young players the opportunity to make their mark in the Evo-Stik Southern League.

The Puritans go into Saturday’s season opener against Dorchester Town at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium looking to build on last term’s excellent return to the premier division.

Because of my budget and the way I am as a manager, I have to make sure there is youth in the team

Puritans boss Mike Ford

But, despite the acquisition of the experienced Jefferson Louis, Darren Pond and Tom Winters, along with one of his first signings Ricky Johnson, the nucleus of Ford’s squad will still be players making their way in non-league football. And that will suit Ford who has built up a reputation at the club of giving young players the chance to progress.

Under Ford, Zac McEachran got his career back on track and, although he has departed to Vanarama National League South outfit Oxford City, there are others who could also play at a higher level.

Ford said: “Ideally, I would like to have more experience, players who have won this division, but I can’t do that. So I’ve got to make sure the younger players keep the older ones fresh and on their toes, and I think I’ve achieved that.”

But United will have to do without one of the younger players who firmly established himself after being given the opportunity last season. Jack Self has been ruled out for the opening four weeks of the new campaign after picking up an injury against Kidlington.

Ford said: “Jack Self will be out for four weeks which is very disappointing because over the last six months he’s been one of our shining lights. When he turned up last season he was unsure if he was going to be good enough for this level but this time he was full of confidence.”

With that in mind, Ford has brought Duran Martin back to the club following his spell at Corby Town last season. Darius Browne is also back after spending some of the pre-season with Brackley Town.