Summer of change is well under way for AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Pre-season is already well under way for AFC Rushden & Diamonds and their first friendly of the summer is fast approaching.

Andy Burgess has been back on the training ground for pre-season with AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Picture courtesy of Hawkins Images
Andy Burgess has been back on the training ground for pre-season with AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Picture courtesy of Hawkins Images

Boss Andy Burgess is gearing up for his first full season at the helm at Hayden Road having taken over following the departure of Andy Peaks last February.

Diamonds’ season ended in disappointment as they missed out on a Southern League Premier Central play-off place on the final day of the campaign.

Burgess is facing an almost complete rebuild of the Diamonds squad this summer following the departure of a number of key players including Liam Dolman, Alex Collard and AJ George who have all joined Peaks at Tamworth while Sam Warburton has joined Bedford Town and Jordan Graham has signed for Kettering Town.

Burgess confirmed he will be running the rule over a number of players in Diamonds’ first three friendlies as they head to Kempston Rovers on Saturday before hosting Milton Keynes Dons in their first home friendly of the summer next Tuesday night (July 5) before travelling to Stamford a week on Saturday (July 9).

But the Diamonds boss, who was back on the training ground last Tuesday and has installed Chris Willmott as his new assistant-manager, has been pleased with the way the first week of pre-season has gone.

“It’s gone really well,” Burgess said.

“Obviously, there have been lots of new faces coming in, some of whom we are in discussions with and some who we want to have a closer look at.

“The first week was good, we blew some cobwebs out and it was encouraging.

“It’s a bit better this week for the players because they have got a game on Saturday to work towards.

“We will be doing more about how we want to play but we are at the stage where we are assessing things and looking at people.

“We have had a big turnaround in players and it’s a big rebuilding job for us this summer so every session is important and a chance to look at people.

“All I have said to the players is that everyone with us will play a part in the first two or three friendlies. We have Kempston on Saturday, MK Dons on Tuesday and then Stamford the following Saturday.

“But I don’t want to spend the whole of pre-season assessing people.

“We need to be clear about what our squad is going to look like but everyone deserves a good opportunity.

“We had a lot of players put to us but what we have tried to do is spread our net a bit further afield.

“We had the opportunity to be open and comprehensive in our search for players.

"We have done that and I think some of the players who the fans will see in the next three games will be new to them.

“We have been looking outside the box for one or two players and I think that has enabled us to recruit some very good ones.

“It will be interesting on Saturday because you can train as much as you want but there’s nothing like playing a game and assessing how these boys get on in that situation. I am looking forward to it.”