NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray hopes his youthful new-look squad can deliver a bright future for the club.

The Wrexham-based Cru have undergone a comprehensive overhaul of their squad, with several experienced players departing in the off-season.

Long-serving trio Jonny Walker, Alex Thompson and Stephen Wild all retired from action in the summer, while influential club captain Kenny Baker made the switch to Championship side Widnes Vikings.

An intensive recruitment drive has since seen Murray make eight new signings to bolster his options.

A mix of established League One talent has been drafted in alongside up and coming academy players and the likes of Wigan St Judes pair Gav Rodden and Joey Brad who are making the step up from the amateur game.

Murray said: “There have been a lot of spaces to fill and this is very much a new-look Crusaders side this season.

“We’ve lost players who’ve been with Crusaders from day one and have had to recruit quite heavily since the end of last season.

“It’s probably a bit of a younger side than we have been in the past, but I hope that what the players lack in experience they will make up for in enthusiasm.

“When you’re bringing in so many new faces it can take a bit of time, but that’s been part of the thought process in bringing these players in.

“We’ve got some young blood here now, who we hope will be staying with us for the next few years and continue to develop in that time.”

After weeks of intensive fitness work and training sessions held at Deeside (pictured), the Cru play their first pre-season fixture of 2020 at Barrow on Sunday.

The Cumbrian side were relegated from the Championship last term and Murray hopes his players can give a solid account of themselves against opposition he rates highly.

“The result this weekend is secondary,” he said.

“It’s all about the performance we put and seeing if we can implement some of the combinations we’ve worked on in training.

“We’re also looking at individuals in certain positions and how well they do. We’re taking a large squad with us and I can see lots of changes being made over the 80 minutes.

“Barrow will be one of the favourites for the league title this season. Their ambitions are clear - they want to get straight back into the Championship.

“We’ll be coming up against some former Crusaders players up there - the likes of Jono Smith and Jamie Dallimore, who I’m sure will up their games and want to play well against us.”