The New Saints boss Scott Ruscoe has challenged the rest of the Welsh Premier League to ‘knock us off our perch’ ahead of the new season.
TNS head to Bangor City on Friday (7.45pm) looking for a seventh straight title with new boss Ruscoe starting his first domestic campaign in charge.
Plenty in Welsh football circles are predicting the demise of the all-conquering side following Craig Harrison’s departure – but Ruscoe has rebuffed suggestions the gap has closed in just a matter of months.
“We know we’re there to be shot at,” said Ruscoe. “Everyone wants to take our crown from us – they’ve all improved and made big signings.
“But we’re looking to improve too and make sure that gap doesn’t close. We want a bigger gap each year and we don’t want people to build up any momentum.
“The lads will be told exactly that. If we’re not up to standard, there’s a month left of the transfer window and changes would be made. That’s a fact, not a threat.
“But I’ve got enough faith in those players to know they will do it.
“I’ll be saying to the players about that and how Bangor will want to be challenging for the title – so go out and show them how good you are.
“Take everything from the past few weeks into that game – how well you’ve trained and the European games.
“I want them to put their stamp on the league straight away. And that’s important for me, too – I’ve been given the job and everyone is looking how I’ll do.
“You can see on social media how clubs are saying they are coming up behind us and that TNS are finished. But hang on a minute, we won the league by a huge amount.
“Not a lot has happened in the mean time – so I want to see us dominating it straight away.”
After bowing out of Europe last month to HNK Rijeka, Ruscoe’s men have turned their attentions to their domestic chores.
The 39-year-old insists his players are as ready as they will ever be to start a new campaign.
He added: “We played Leicester in midweek and we beat Liverpool’s under-23s on Friday with a goal from Greg Draper – and we did really well.
“They had a good workout in a good game – Liverpool’s under-23s were a good team. I think we’re as ready as we can be. The players have been back since May 23 so if we’re not ready now, there’s something up with what we’re doing.
“We’ve got a squad of 24 and can pick only 17 for Bangor. The players will be doing their utmost to make sure they’re in my starting 11 on Friday night.
“It’s the first domestic game since the cup final and we lost our last league game there 3-0, which doesn’t happen to us too much.
“It’s a chance for our players to exorcise those demons.”
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