CHESTER have set up a mouth-watering pre-season friendly with Premier League giants Aston Villa.
Paul Lambert’s men will visit the Exacta Stadium on Saturday, July 28 (3pm).
The meeting with Villa, who Chester last met at home in the League Cup second round in 1999, comes three days after Liverpool visit the Exacta.
Chester performed impressively against a Villa side consisting of Ugo Ehiogu, Gareth Barry and Paul Merson, losing the home leg 1-0 before the Premier League side ran out comfortable 5-0 winners in the second meeting.
Villa have Chester links with their chief executive Paul Faulkner, a former pupil at the King’s School.
Meanwhile, Neil Young and his backroom staff are putting the Chester squad through their paces ahead of next week’s opening pre-season friendly match.
The Blues boss admitted that his players are working extremely hard to ensure they are ready for the first of 10 pre-season friendlies which kick-off with a game at Buckley Town on Thursday.
“The whole squad, including the youth team players, are preparing the best that they can for our busy pre-season programme of matches before we start the league season at Oxford City on August 18,” Young said.
“Our first training session last week saw the lads tackling a nine mile run along the river from the Exacta Stadium which really opened up their lungs and proved quite intensive.
“The second session saw the squad taking part in a sand dune training exercise at New Brighton, and we’ve also had the players undergoing a gruelling track training session.
“It’s really hard work in pre-season, but it needs to be that way early doors because we have to ensure that every player experiences endurance work before we are ready to start the quicker stuff.”
Young’s opposite number at Oxford City, Mike Ford, admitted he can’t wait for the start of the Conference North campaign next month after learning his team would be facing Chester on the opening day.
Ford said his side could not have been given a better start to their new adventure after winning promotion last season to Conference North for the first time in the club’s history.
“It’s brilliant, we are absolutely chuffed about it,” he said.
“I was hoping it would either be Chester or Halifax Town as our first game with the obvious increase in the crowd and a big away support.
“When you see the fixtures, it really hits home the level that we are now playing at.
“They are both former league clubs with fantastic heritages.
“I haven’t really thought about any fixtures clashes. I just looked at the first three or four and the Christmas fixtures.”
City were hoping to avoid their home games coinciding with neighbours Oxford United and the fixture list has been fairly kind, with only six dates clashing with the Us.
Ford added: “The players returned to training last week and they don’t need much incentive to make sure that they are in the squad for the opening day game.
“We’ll need a big effort from everyone, the players, the management and the committee to make sure we stay in it. I’m just really looking forward to it.
“I have heard reports that Conference North is more physical and more direct than the Southern League. But we’ll go and watch these teams before the start of the season to see what we can expect.”