STRIKER Luke Keen admitted he and his Redditch United team-mates are ‘itching to get going’ for this weekend’s opening day visit to AFC Rushden & Diamonds after completing a tough pre-season schedule.
Keen joined The Reds in June and is one of many new faces in a squad which has been reshaped over pre-season by new manager Paul Davis.
Davis’ latest recruits include former Premier League striker Stefan Moore and experienced winger Tom Winters.
Despite the number of additions and changes, the proven goalscorer believes the squad is ready for the start of the new Southern League Premier Central season tomorrow (Saturday).
“I think we are prepared as we can be,” he said.
“The manager has given everyone minutes on the pitch, but with the intensity levels set to rise with points up for grabs, we have to make sure we are ready for the hard battle.
“It is important that we get off to a positive start.
Rushden have gained several promotions, achieved with the same core of players, some of whom I know from my spell with Daventry Town, so I know they are more than capable of competing at this level.
“Away fixtures at this level are always tough, and I expect no less against a physical side on Saturday, but we will do our level best to come from Rushden with a positive result.”
Moore, like Winters, will be available for the Rushden & Diamonds clash after signing forms with the Reds on Tuesday evening.
The 34-year-old’s pedigree in the game is clear, boasting a career which started by scoring on his Premier League debut, aged 18, and representing England’s youth teams.
He is also prolific at non-League level having scored 68 league goals in 80 appearances for St Neots Town and 24 in 42 for Leamington.
“Stefan’s abilities, both on and off the pitch, will be invaluable for us,” said Davis.
“He is an intelligent frontman, his movement is terrific and boasts a goal record which will worry opposition defenders throughout the league.
As for 32-year-old Winters, he has bags of Football League and non-League experience having had spells at Oxford United, Oxford City, Brackley Town and Banbury United.
“We have a young first-team squad, so bringing in someone of Tom’s guile will help those inexperienced players through what will be a long and challenging season ahead,” added Davis.
“More than his experience, though, is his ability in terms of goalscoring and creating goals and chances.
“He will be a significant player for Redditch United this season.”
Last Saturday the Reds’ pre-season campaign came to an end in a 3-1 defeat to Welsh top flight team Barry Town United.
Shaquille Whittingham scored United’s solitary goal.
Davis believed his young side matched their opponents until a string of second-half substitutions disrupted their rhythm.
However, the Reds boss admitted his frustration in not being able to name his strongest side throughout pre-season.
“I am frustrated that I’ve not been able to put out my strongest XI throughout pre-season, whether that be through injuries or unavailability, but I won’t make any excuses, because Saturday is when it really counts, and I hope we can come away from AFC Rushden & Diamonds with three points,” said Davis.