Bring on the big boys! Boston United winger relishes test of Aston Villa, Sunderland, Nottingham Forest and Norwich City

Jamie McGhee.
Jamie McGhee.

Jamie McGhee believes that Boston United’s lucrative pre-season fixture list will help the squad hit the ground running as they return to training.

The Pilgrims will host teams from Premier League clubs Aston Villa and Sunderland in the build-up to the upcoming Conference North season, as well as a side from Championship outfit Nottingham Forest.

Paul Gascoigne.

Paul Gascoigne.

It is also hoped that Norwich City could bring a side to the Jakemans Stadium.

Pre-season is a strange time for football clubs, with some players reporting back for duty as sharp as ever, and others in obvious need of getting back to full fitness.

However, McGhee believes that the calibre of Boston’s warm-up opposition will act as an incentive for the players to return to the club in top shape.

“Everyone will want to play in those games,” he told The Standard.

“We could be playing against under-21 sides or there may be some first-teamers in there as well.

“But it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Not everyone can say they’ve played against teams like this in their career.

“We could be playing against lads who will be in the Premier League regularly in two or three years’ time.”

The Pilgrims have played a number of high-profile clubs in friendly matches in recent years.

Since 2002, top flight teams Manchester United, Liverpool, Leicester City, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic have all brought select sides to York Street.

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated friendly came in 2004 when United summer signing Paul Gascoigne pulled on the amber and black shirt to face his boyhood club Newcastle United.

The Pilgrims’ last competitive contest against a top-flight club came later that year, when they hosted Fulham in a Carling Cup match.

On that day, the Cottagers featured Tomasz Radzinski, Brian McBride and Steed Malbranque in their line-up as they comfortably won 4-1.

But no matter who the pre-season opposition is, McGhee is adamant that the Pilgrims need to report back with just a little match fitness to hone if they are to have serious hopes of finishing in the Conference North’s play-off spots.

He added: “It’s that time of year when everyone has started, or is starting, to get back into a proper routine.

“You can’t afford to be unfit when you go back to training these days.

“Everyone wants to be in the team and play as many matches as they can in the season.

“Pre-season is a good exercise as you can get your match fitness back up.

“But it’s also a chance for everyone to make a good impression.”

Boston’s pre-season matches are: July 15 - Spalding United (A); July 19 - Aston Villa (H); July 21 - Nottingham Forest (H); July 23 - Lincoln United (A); July 26 - Sunderland (H); July 29 - Gainsborough Trinity (H), Lincolnshire Senior Cup quarter-final; August 2 - Grimsby Town (H), Lincolnshire Senior Cup semi-final (TBC).