Having found himself out of the starting line-up on more occasions than he would have liked last term, Harrogate Town winger Joe Leesley admits that the second half of the 2018/19 campaign was something of a “slog” for him, but still can’t hide his enthusiasm for the season ahead.
The 25-year-old reported back at Wetherby Road after the summer break as fit as he’s ever been in a bid to earn himself a starting berth and the right to provide the ammunition for Simon Weaver’s new-look forward line.
Ex-Premier League star Jon Stead and former Shrewsbury man Sam Jones have joined the club during the close season and Leesley believes that the addition of such players will benefit both his own game and Town’s chances of mounting another National League promotion push.
“It was quite a tough end to last season for me personally,” said Leesley, who has scored three times in pre-season and contributed a couple of assists and a goal in Saturday's 4-0 success over Spennymoor.
“I’ve always played 50 games for Simon Weaver and so it became a bit of a slog during those last three or four months where I wasn’t in the team much.
“I’ve tried to hit the ground running this summer and come back as fit as possible. I’ve been up near the front of all the runs and I’m feeling good.
“I’ve scored a couple of goals in the friendlies and think I’ve done okay.
“There have been a couple of sloppy moments and maybe a bit of rust, but I think that’s to be expected, particularly as I wasn’t playing regularly during the second half of last season.
“Hopefully, I’ll get the nod when it comes around to that first league game of the season against Solihull Moors.
“That’s what I’m working towards and then it’s your shirt to lose.
“Everyone in the dressing room is looking towards that first game now. We’re ready to go and the lads can’t wait.”
Part of the reason for Leesley’s own enthusiasm for the start of the new campaign can be attributed to the forward players whom boss Weaver has recruited.
“We’ve made some very good signings and we’ve got a stronger squad now,” he added.
“Steady [Jon Stead] is that fox in the box, Sam Jones, who I’ve played with before, is a very technical footballer and great in the air.
“Add to that Mark Beck, who looks hungrier than I’ve ever seen him, and you’ve got players there who it’s a bit of a dream for me to have to cross a ball in to.
“When I’m looking to deliver balls into the box, having those type of players in front of me can only help my own game as well as the team.
“We’ve got quite a small squad but it’s full of quality and it’ll be a tough task for the gaffer to keep everyone happy, though that’s the challenge for a manager and I’m sure he’ll handle it.”