STEVE WATSON admits that the decision to let go the core of the squad which topped the Vanarama National League table for much of last season was “a big gamble”.

However, the York City manager has backed himself to build a largely new side which is capable of securing a return back to the National League.

13 York players were released in total, while David Ferguson, Alex Kempster and Kieran Green all opted to turn down new deals.

“We’ve gone through an awful process of releasing players who had essentially done brilliantly for me,” said Watson.

“That was a big gamble, phoning lads up to tell them that there was going to be no contract offer made to them, lads who had just spent the whole of last season in the top two. It was tough.

“We’ve backed ourselves to be able to replace them and hopefully we can go in a different direction and be successful in another way.

“I suppose the proof will be in the pudding in terms of games and points and ultimately, if we can get ourselves back up to where we were last season.”

York’s off-season recruitment has been impressive thus far with Scott Barrow, Robbie Tinkler, Jack Redshaw, Michael Duckworth and Kieran Kennedy all signing for the club.

All five of the new additions have all previously played at a higher level before in their careers while only Barrow, from Gateshead, arrives from a club not in a higher tier than York.

“When we looking at players during lockdown, a lot of them we were looking at in the league that we’re in and the league above ended up re-signing for the clubs that they were at, basically because of security I guess, with the furlough (scheme) going on.

“We set out in our recruitment to get players from higher above and it has been tough but it has been rewarding.

“There has been a lot of work that has gone on by myself and Micky (Cummins, assistant manager) and Dave (Penny, sporting director) to go through endless amounts of CVs and doing the homework on who’s attached and unattached.”

Watson also said that he is open to giving opportunities for players in York’s academy to stake a claim for a first-team spot.

Players in the club’s youth team have returned to training after the enforced break amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic back in March, with decision on their futures to be made in around a month’s time.

“It’s another difficult situation because there’s three or four young lads who we had to make decisions on at the end of last season,” Watson continued.

“That was cut short around the time when we usually discuss that. I wanted to give these lads a chance to come back and train.

“It give us the best part of another month to try and make decisions on them and chat to them to see what they want to do.

“There are a couple of lads who have decided to go elsewhere, as in other careers, which happens if they don’t see a career in the game.

“As far as the other lads are concerned, we’re going to give them every chance to train with us in pre-season.

“It’s more than likely that they’ll be involved in a couple of the games and then we’ll be able to make more of a measured decision on them.”

Five warm-up games have already been arranged, Watson revealed.

“We’ve got five games organised now, albeit most of them behind closed doors or training ground games,” he said.

“They’re of a good standard and it’s a chance to have a look at them.

“We’ve got a good number of youth players in and there’s good bodies around the training ground again.”