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Who will be in the first choice eleven? As Chester City’s pre-season preparations rattle on, the most pressing question supporters find themselves asking is exactly who will be in Mark Wright's first choice eleven when the big kick off arrives. That’s the headache Mark Wright will have on August 17. Just who will he leave out? There is every chance of seeing a few disappointed footballers mulling around the east stand as Chester City step out onto the outstanding new Deva Stadium surface come five to three that afternoon. Through this feature we examine the players' credentials in detail:

Wayne Brown England semi-professional goalkeeper Wayne Brown was a trainee with both Southampton and Bristol City before he made the move to the Deva Stadium. Despite the arrival of a little competition Mark Wright highly rates Brown. He made 22 appearances for Bristol City before joining Chester in 1998 and he has now featured well over 200 times for City. Having signed a new contract with Chester in the summer, surely Brown will be the main man between the sticks?

Steve Harkness 30-Year-old defender Steve Harkness is arguably the most high profile of Mark Wright's summer acquisitions. Harkness started his career at Carlisle before earning a move to Premiership giants Liverpool in 1989. He spent time on loan at Huddersfield and Southend before breaking into the Liverpool first team in the 1995/96 season.

He made over 125 appearances for Liverpool before joining Benfica on a free transfer under the Bosman ruling in 1999. He only lasted a matter of months and returned to England to join Blackburn Rovers. He then moved onto Sheffield Wednesday where he spent two seasons before moving to the Deva Stadium on a non-contract basis. Perhaps Harkness holds the key to a strong defensive rearguard this season?

[Phil BollandPhil Bolland (pictured) In my personal opinion Bolland has been the best signing Mark Wright has made so far. He spent three months on loan at the Deva Stadium and impressed enough to secure a move to Chester for £15,000. Bolland started his career in Cheshire at Altrincham and moved to Southport on a free in 1997, where he played under current Chester boss Mark Wright. He spent a season at Oxford United before he was reunited with Wright as Chester secured his services on a permanent basis, but is he guaranteed a place in Wright's starting eleven.

Wayne Hatswell defender Wayne Hatswell was snapped up on a free transfer from Chester boss Mark Wright in the summer of 2002 after impressing at Oxford where he’d spent two seasons following a £35,000 move from Forest Green Rovers. Hatswell has been handed the number six jersey for the start of the season, possibly indicating that he'll be a regular in Wright's team.

Martyn Lancaster defender Martyn ´Lanky’ Lancaster is a product of the youth system at the Deva Stadium and has made over 100 appearances for the club during the past four years. Premiership clubs had been sniffing around Lancaster and he spent time on trial at Aston Villa, who were unwilling to meet Chester’s asking price for the defender. Everton were also interested once however his career nearly ended prematurely when he was released by Chester at the end of last season following an incident at Dagenham & Redbridge. But Mark Wright reconsidered and re-signed the defender, possibly just to provide cover in defence.

Carl Ruffer Defender Carl Ruffer started his career at Everton but joined Runcorn in 1995 on a free transfer. The former England semi-pro international moved to the Deva Stadium in August 2000 and has made around 50 appearances since joining the club but are his days now numbered following Wright’s defensive signings?

Lee Woodyatt Defender Lee Woodyatt graduated into the Chester first team in 2001 after rising through the ranks of the youth system at the Deva Stadium. Woodyatt has already won a call up to the Welsh under-18 squad and will be looking to break into the first team at Chester this season. The youngster impressed Wright with his fine performances last season and should feature more often next season.

Kevin McIntyre Liverpool-born midfielder Kevin McIntyre started his career at Tranmere Rovers as a trainee where he made two substitute appearances for the Prenton Park outfit. He went on loan to Barrow before signing for Doncaster Rovers in 1999, but he moved to the Deva Stadium on a free transfer in the summer of 2002 after refusing to sign a new contract at Doncaster.

Chris Blackburn Midfielder Chris Blackburn is a product of Chester’s youth academy and held down a regular place in the first team last season, scoring four goals. Speculation surrounded Blackburn’s future in the summer as he spent two weeks on trial at Manchester City but he returned to the Deva Stadium and will look to take his good form from last season into the new campaign.

Jimmy Kelly Jimmy Kelly was another of Mark Wright’s summer 2002 signings after he joined on a free following his refusal to sign a new contract at Doncaster Rovers. The 29-year-old midfielder started his career at Wolverhampton Wanderers, moved to Wrexham but was released by the club and he joined Hednesford Town where he made thirty appearances in two years. He then joined Doncaster for a fee of £15,000 before being snapped up by Wright. Will he be playing a key role in Midfield.

Michael Twiss Former Manchester United midfielder, Michael Twiss made two appearances for the Old Trafford club in the mid-nineties after graduating through their youth system. He failed to make the grade, however, and spent time on loan at Sheffield United before joining Port Vale on a free transfer in 2000, where he had just one season. He joined non-league Leigh RMI last summer and scored 15 goals, including three against Chester (shame on him!). Mark Wright beat York City and others to capture his signature and should now be hoping he can continue his rich vein of form down the Deva.

Paul Carden Paul Carden returned for his second spell at Chester City in November 2001. The midfielder started his career at Blackpool and made his debut at the age of just 17, live on Sky Sports against Preston North End. It was his only appearance for Blackpool and he joined Rochdale in 1998 on a free transfer. He joined Chester on loan in March 2000 before making the switch permanent that summer. He spent just one season at the Deva before joining Doncaster for £10,000. After just four months at Doncaster, he returned to Chester for £4,000 but is he in Mark Wright’s long term plans?

[Ben Davies]Ben Davies (pictured) Midfielder Ben Davies became Mark Wright’s first summer signing when he joined Chester in July 2002 on a free transfer from Kidderminster. He joins the ranks under the recommendation of Hull City manager Jan Molby. He started his career at Walsall and will be looking to break into the Chester first team after making just 15 professional appearances during his career so far.

Stuart Whittaker Midfielder Stuart Whittaker began his career at Liverpool as a trainee. However, he had just one season at Anfield before joining Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer. Spells at Wigan Athletic and Macclesfield soon followed before he teamed up with Mark Wright at Southport. When Wright became manager at Chester, he moved quickly to secure the services of Whittaker. The midfielder made an impressive debut for City, winning the man of the match award. He scored a hat trick for Chester against Stevenage Borough in April 2002 and should provide City with much needed width next season.

Danny Collins Midfielder Daniel Collins joined from local Cymru Alliance side, Buckley Town and he signed professional forms with the club in December 2001. He has since made seven appearances for City and has potential to progress. Perhaps Mark will see him as one for the future?

Jimmy Haarhoff Zambian born striker Jimmy Haarhoff is a firm favourite with the Chester faithful thanks to his lively early performances in attack. He started his career at Birmingham City where he made just one substitute appearance for the Blues before joining Chester in January 2001. Operating on either wing or in attack, Haarhoff wrote to several clubs in the hope that they might take him on following his decision to leave St Andrews. Still only 21, but will he feature more regularly for Chester this season?

Dave Cameron Tall 6'2" striker Dave Cameron was one of many players who made the move to the Deva Stadium in the summer of 2002 as Mark Wright bolstered his squad. Cameron started his career at St Mirren in Scotland before joining Brighton. He has also had spells at Raith, Worthing and Lincoln City. He scored eleven goals in two years at Lincoln, making around 70 appearances. Will he feature regularly up front for the Blues?

Ryan Sugden Another Striker Ryan Sugden signed on a free transfer from Scarborough in June 2002 after he spent just four months at the Yorkshire club, making 12 appearances and scoring three goals. Sugden began his career at Oldham Athletic and is highly thought of by Chester boss Mark Wright after impressing whilst playing against Chester in a Scarborough shirt. Perhaps Ryan will provide the much needed competition needed up front to keep the other strikers on their toes!

Michael Brown Veteran forward Michael Brown signed a two-year deal with Mark Wright’s side in the summer of 2002. He’s had three spells at Shrewsbury Town as well as Bolton Wanderers, Preston, Rochdale and Boston United. He’s made just under 450 appearances during his career and scored 36 goals.

[Steve Brodie]Steve Brodie (pictured) Striker Steve Brodie started his career at Sunderland as a trainee, making twelve appearances for the Wearside club. He joined Scarborough on a free transfer in 1997 and scored 52 goals in just under 200 appearances. Moved to Swansea City last summer but was released at the end of the season and he signed a two year deal at the Deva Stadium. The player has looked lively throughout pre-season and should expect to be selected in many starting line ups.

Mark Beesley Young striker Mark Beesley was signed by Graham Barrow after scoring 20 goals for Preston Reserves in 1999/2000. He joined Chester on a free transfer and has been the clubs’ leading scorer on two occasions, having found the back of the net 30 times during his time at the Deva Stadium. He netted 16 times last season but will he find it more difficult to retain his place in the team this time around?

Rob Ashcroft
1 August 2002

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