CHESTER’S summer signings are proof the club won’t ‘settle for second best’ according to Ryan Astles.
The 22-year-old started every league game for the Blues last season, taking his tally to 69 matches for the club since arriving in January 2016 from Northwich Victoria, notching five goals in that time including a stunning last-minute equaliser at Tranmere Rovers last term in a thrilling 2-2 draw.
Astles penned a new one-year deal with Chester at the end of last season and looks set to be partnered by new signing John McCombe at centre-half, the 32-year-old having joined from Macclesfield earlier this week.
The Birkenhead-born centre-back admits the end of last campaign was simply not good enough for players and fans alike, but feels the new arrivals – including Ross Hannah, Harry White and Andy Halls – have given everyone connected with the club a ‘massive lift’.
“The second part of last season was a massive disappointment, not just for the supporters but for us as players too,” Astles said.
“We weren’t happy about it, it was frustrating for all of us. But we move on now as a squad and you can’t help but be impressed with the squad the manager is building.
“Obviously the signings are massive. It shows the club is looking to go somewhere and Chester won't settle for second best. Last season we were second best in too many games, the fans deserve better.
“The signings have given everyone a lift. You can tell on social media the fans have been lifted by the news, maybe they were shocked by some of the signings but it shows we can attract these top players.
“Ross coming back is a big boost for everyone, he is a proven goalscorer. Harry White and Nyal Bell too, they are good players, and Andy Halls was Macclesfield’s captain so again it shows our ambition to do well.
“These are big names for the National League, it’s good to see the club moving forward.”
Astles feels a bigger squad for the 2017/18 campaign can only benefit results on the pitch, after seeing last season’s form fall away dramatically as a mixture of injuries and dented confidence led to the Blues losing each of their final six matches.
“It’s looking like it’ll be really competitive next season which is what we need,” he continued.
“At the start of last season we had competition in every position, pushing each other on and we were playing some really good football and winning games.
“But by the end we only had 14 or 15 players fit and we struggled to get a team out. The squad size probably didn’t help our cause but it looks like we’ll have a bigger squad next season.”
Astles centre-half partner last term – 20-year-old starlet Sam Hughes – is set to seal a move away from the Blues this week, with a host of Premier League clubs chasing the highly rated defender’s signature.
Astles believes Hughes will be a major success at the top level when he is given an opportunity.
“Sam will be a big hit wherever he goes,” he added. “He has all the right attributes to make it at the top level but he’ll also work harder than anyone else to make it happen. He’s got the quality needed to do it at the top level.
“It’s what everyone wants in football, to do well and get to the next level. It could happen to anyone at the club, you have a good season and who knows what might happen.
“I’m made up for Sam and James (Alabi) too that they are getting moves to a higher level, they both deserve it after great seasons.
“It proves that people are watching the National League and this is a platform to showcase your football and to get scouted by bigger clubs.”
With Hughes moving on to pastures new, Tom Shaw stepping up to become assistant manager and Luke George’s future with the club in doubt, McCarthy could well be seeking a new captain in the coming weeks, a role Astles said he would be open to fulfilling.
“One of the reasons you play football is to be captain,” the uncompromising defender said.
“Of course if the manager came to me and asked me to captain the team, I would love to do it, but equally if he decides on someone else then that’s fine too.
“I’m happy with whatever and I’m just focused on playing my football, playing as many games as possible and doing my best for Chester.”
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