DEAN SAUNDERS has identified some players who will feature in the opening Conference game of the season - but insists there is still time for others to force their way into the team.

Wrexham open their campaign against Cambridge United at The Racecourse on Saturday August 14 and his players have got four more friendlies to stake their claim for a starting place.

Operating on a reduced budget and with a smaller squad, Saunders has made nine new signings over the summer and some of those are almost certain starters.

But Saunders won’t accept any slacking from players in his squad before the big kick-off.

“There are places up for grabs,” said Saunders. “People have got time to force their way into the team, they are getting opportunities.

“I don’t care who plays, I want 11 players ready for Cambridge.

“I have players in my head (who will play), obviously the players I have brought here.
“Obviously at the moment Chris Blackburn and Frank Sinclair are the two centre-backs we have got. I need them to play regularly together.

“We have had the budget cut so we can’t carry anyone this year - I am not accepting any passengers.

“We are going to have less players so they are all going to have to play their part. It is up to them to make my mind-up.”

Saunders still hopes to bring in two more new recruits and one of them would be a centre-back after trio Ashley Westwood, Mansour Assoumani and Mike Williams all moved on.

While he had been hoping to bring in a centre-back on a season long loan from a higher division club, Saunders will have to decide whether to offer a contract to trialist Cameron Mawer who has featured throughout pre-season.

“Money wise we are a bit tight but I would like to get another couple of players in,” said Saunders. “We need a centre-back so I have got to make a few decisions on that one.”

Saunders is pleased with how his squad is shaping up and believes spirits are at an all-time high in the camp.

“There is a good spirit in there which is really good, probably the best since I have been here,” said Saunders.

“There are a lot more voices around with more experienced players and we have got some young players who are doing well like Declan Walker and Johnny Hunt.

“We have got the players out there, it is just getting them organised the way I want us to set-up. Things like marking from corners, throw-ins and when we are defending free-kicks people doing their jobs properly.

“It is coming together nicely.”

With Westwood departing for Kettering Town, Saunders has got to appoint a new captain.

Midfielder Dean Keates has emerged as a possible contender but Saunders has not yet made a final decision.

“I have got an idea in my head but I am going to wait and see how they develop over the next two weeks,” added Saunders.

“I want to see how they react around the club - who is going to jump out at me and say ‘I’ll do it?’

“But I have got people in my mind.”