‘I really enjoyed the European experience, definitely, leading this team, but to lead them into our first domestic campaign together in this environment is something I’m looking forward to very much and have wanted to do for a long time.
‘I’m very proud to be leading the team, without a doubt, and it’s almost time for us to get back to the league action and try to continue where we left off from last season, which was a very successful term on the whole.
‘We did do very well last year, but for me I want to go one better and win all three of our domestic trophies again, rather than just the two we secured last season. We just fell short in the final of The JD Welsh Cup, but this season we’ll be doing everything to progress further, to keep moving forward, and I think with the squad we have plus one or two additions, we’ll be going in the right direction. You’re not going to break a World Record every year, but we will be looking for continued improvement.
‘In 2001 I arrived at the club, and it means the world to me to still be a part of this club and looking ahead to my first season of leading the club from the touchline. I’ve done everything during my time at the club, both as a player and off the pitch, I’ve been Head of Youth, Assistant Manager, Interim Manager and hopefully confirmed as full-time manager in the near future.’
Much of the pre-season talk has been centred on two things: transfer activity, and how the newly promoted sides will fare in The Welsh Premier League.
The reception regarding Barry Town United and Pestatyn Town has been unanimous, with the league’s ten other managers agreeing that The WPL’s newest additions will add an awful lot to division in the season to come.
‘Neil Gibson has done well with a limited budget at Prestatyn, bringing a lot of good young players through, and Barry have done well in the last few years – we’ve played them a couple of times over the last couple of seasons, so we know all about them too.
‘I think they’ll improve the league massively, and they’ll certainly add competition; they certainly won’t be here as also-rans, after their very impressive seasons that got them into the league, so they’ll have real momentum behind them too and will want to make it very difficult for us.
‘The likes of Bala, Bangor and Connah’s Quay are going to make it tougher for us, but we’re in a good position and the European experience has improved us further. The way we’ve worked, the way we’ve planned, the way we’ve performed for the majority of pre-season has been a credit to the boys and what they can do, so we can wait to get going again.’
Two very challenging draws once again awaited The New Saints in The First and Second Qualifying Rounds of the UEFA Champions League, giving Ruscoe a tough introduction to life leading The New Saints from the touchline.
Impressive results away from home against Gibraltan champions Europa FC and Croatian champions HNK Rijeka showed The New Saints’ mettle under Ruscoe’s leadership, with the interim boss reflecting very positively on the experience.
‘I think there were many positives to take away from the European experience, definitely. We played three different formations across four games and saw a lot of impressive performances, especially from those players who were played out of position at times too, so that shows how adaptable and how capable this squad is.
‘To go into that away game against Europa FC, 2-1 down after the home leg, a lot of people were asking questions of the team and wondering whether we could turn it around and we did, we stuck together and you could see the team spirit there.
‘I think as a group we gelled and become a lot closer as a team over the course of the games; the players got behind me and Steve without a doubt, and I was very proud of them all throughout this season’s Champions League fixtures.’
Whilst expecting a team to at least live up to the performances of the previous season is perhaps the norm, to expect that of The New Saints who broke a World Record last year with their remarkable consistency, is somewhat unfair to say the least, but what will Ruscoe be expecting given how much the other teams in the league have improved their squads?
‘I think it is good that our competitors are signing a higher level of players, it’s great for the league without a doubt and it only increases the standard of the games and of the football on show across the league.
‘We’re very happy with our squad, we have 24 players of the highest quality so we could field two different sides and still compete at this level, I really believe that, but we’re still looking at adding maybe one or two more before the season gets underway. We’re improving, we’ve got to keep doing that, but we’ve got good players in every department and we’re really looking forward to the new season.
‘We’ll be looking to go on a lengthy unbeaten run again, and I’ll be looking for consistent performances as well as getting some momentum in the league again that would put us in pole position to fight off any challengers – that’s our target for the first few weeks of the season without a doubt.’
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