FORMER Derby City and Notts County defender Jason Beardsley is set to champion Uttoxeter Town's quest to achieve promotion into the top flight of the Staffordshire Senior League.
Town kick off their season at home to Hilton Harriers on Wednesday and the addition of Beardsley is a major coup manager Mark Grimley tells Post & Times Sport. He added: "He's very committed and has been training with us all season. It must be difficult for Jason to adapt from the level he's played at. That's no disrespect to the other lads. A lot have dropped down but to drop from pro football to our level is something else.
"Hopefully this can be a platform for Jason to build on. I am sure he's not given up all hope of playing professional football again. But if can help us along our way to where we want to be that's brilliant." And Grimley says that goal is to achieve Premier Division status in the Staffordshire Senior League at the first time of asking. He added: "We want to get promoted in the first year - that's always been the aim and still is the aim."
However, with the opening game of the season just days away the Town boss already has a selection headache.
He said: "Now we have come to that time when we have to let a few lads down who have trained hard and played a few games. That has made my job tough. It's a new situation for me to be in to some respects as a new manager. But it's a long hard season. There's 32 league games and at least three cups that we plan to do well in. We've 24 players but during the season they will get their chance. They have to be ready to step in and take that shirt."
Uttoxeter Town completed their pre-season programme with a fine victory over a talented but youthful Burton Albion on Wednesday night. Burton broke the deadlock as early as the sixth minute. But from that point on Town began to exploit their physical advantage and Lee Bagley, Tommy Smith and Martin Gadsby all drew fine saves from the impressive Albion number one.
When Kyle Esplin was hacked down on 15 minutes Jon Lamburn had the chance to equalise from the penalty spot but saw the stopper again produce a fine save. The hosts were not to be denied for long however and when Chris Richards met Rob Collins's whipped set piece the equaliser arrived.
The second half saw Town pour forward at every opportunity and the goals duly followed. Bagley headed home superbly from a George Marshman throw before Kyle Esplin delighted the bumper crowd of 200 with two sublime finishes.
Grimley added: "Our experience won us that game. We should have been out of sight by half time and to play in front of over 150 people is fantastic. I'm quite pleased with our pre-season. We've put ourselves up against the big boys and played three of the (Premier Division's) top five. Granted we lost those but it was mistakes and basic errors that cost us and we got punished. We just want to get started now."
Town begin their historic new era against Hilton Harriers on Wednesday evening at Oldfields. Kick-off is 18.30pm.