Michael Johnston Bangor City FC
Bangor City skipper Michael Johnston has vowed to "step up" this season ahead of their Welsh Premier League opener at Newtown this weekend.
The 25 year-old centre-back will deputise as captain this season following the career-threatening injury suffered by Jamie Brewerton during pre-season, and he admits he has big boots to fill.
Johnston said: "It's a massive blow, I'm not going to sugar-coat it. Brewie's been one of the most consistent performers for the last four years and he's a leader for us.
The Citizens' failure to secure an European spot last season has hampered manager Nev Powell's spending power this summer and has also seen the departure of last season's top scorer, Chris Simm, as well as many others.
However, the new skipper believes the club's summer signings and reserve team graduates have what it takes to replace the notable absentees.
Johnston said: "With the younger lads coming in, I think I'll be one of the older lads left. It's only Les, (Jamie) Brewie and Siony (Edwards) from the squad when I first joined! There is a different pressure. There's a good mixture here now and a lot of the younger lads who have dropped down from the professional game are looking to prove the point, which can only be good for us. When you look at the three Welsh Cups we won on the bounce, we won it with a squad of 15 players, so we've been here before. Last season we had a bigger squad but we didn't do as well, so it makes no difference to us really.”
And although clubs around City have made some high-profile signings over the summer, Johnston is as bullish as ever about the side's main aim for the season.
He added: "Nothing's changed in our aims for the season. This is my seventh season here and last season was the only bad season, but because we've overachieved over the last few years with a small squad, the bench-mark we've set is high. I think watching the other clubs in Europe, they did really well. It just brought back memories when we went through against Honka, and there's nothing better than playing in Europe.
The blues defeated Welsh Alliance outfit Llanberis by an 8-2 scoreline in their final pre-season friendly last weekend, with Jamie McDaid (3), Jamie Petrie (2), Les Davies, Dec Walker and John Owen on target.
City get their Welsh Premier League campaign underway this Saturday, August 24 at Newtown’s Latham Park (kick off 2.30pm).