Milton Lindsay Norwich United have made sweeping changes on and off the pitch in the wake of last season's nerve-jangling Ridgeons League Premier Division relegation escape act.

Milton Lindsay

Norwich United have made sweeping changes on and off the pitch in the wake of last season's nerve-jangling Ridgeons League Premier Division relegation escape act.

Manager Paul Chick and assistant Donny Pye, who took over halfway through the campaign with the team rooted to the bottom of the table, have been asked to continue the good work at the city's most senior amateur club.

But they are hoping that a crop of new signings will make life more comfortable than last term when a 3-1 win at Histon on the final day kept the Planters up by the skin of their teeth.

Only a handful of last season's 17-man playing squad have been retained, with a heavy emphasis on experience among the new faces.

"We have brought in 11 new players, some of them with Ryman League experience. While we want to promote youth, at this level you have to have a blend of experience and youth," said Chick. who began is in his third stint at United's managerial helm, after Gary Butcher's exit last season.

"The club chairman John Hilditch has decided that now the club's facilities are close to Ryman League standard he wants the side to match the facilities he has built. We are not saying that we are going to win the league but I have made one promise and that is that we won't finish third from bottom of the league," declared Chick.

The new signings are spearheaded by former Football League centre forward Tom Youngs, who has over 200 games with Cambridge United, Northampton and Bury under his belt.

Five players with Ryman League experience have also joined the parade of first team talent, including the ex-Sudbury Town trio of centre forward Andrew Claydon, goalkeeper Ben Nowa and midfielder Paul Betson. They are joined by former Histon and Cambridge City centre half Darren Coe and ex-Cambridge City and Mildenhall midfielder Matthew Robinson.

Ex-Colchester Academy and Leiston full back Ben Wake and former Leiston winger Danny George have also checked in at Plantation Park along with Gorleston's 29-goal top scorer from last season Lee Hunter. He will be joined by fellow Greens midfielder John Bell and talented winger Ricci Butler.

The services of Gavin Frost, Nathan Pauling, Warren Preston, Tom Jeal, Neil Bugdale, Steve Shipley and Martin Magee have been retained.

The Planters, who began their Tuesday and Thursday pre-season training sessions last week and will kick off their league campaign on August 8, have lined up friendlies against Sheringham, Thetford, Fakenham, Gorleston, Stowmarket and St Neots.

While Chick and Pye are again heading up the first team set-up, Andy Baker and Bob Malone, who were at the Wroxham helm last season following Damian Hilton's exit, have taken over the reserve side which has quit the Anglian Combination to join the Ridgeons League Reserve section.

The club's Under 18 Ridgeons League team will be managed by Mick Sheehan and Steve Thompson.

Norwich United chairman John Hilditch is the driving force behind the development of the impressive 12-acre Plantation Park complex which caters for an array of men's, women's and youth teams and also has a separate bowls green and clubhouse. He said the changes were necessary because "the structure of the club has not been right for the last three or four years."

He added: "Paul and Donny are doing a terrific job.

"They are well respected and when it comes to attracting players they always seem to attract better players.

"You have got to be able to attract the right calibre of players with experience."

He said the club is ambitious to move further up the football pyramid with the Ryman League one possibility. "When we built our facilities in 1991 moving up was always on the agenda. It was just a case of finding the right mix." He said he is not setting a specific target for next season but added: "It would be nice to finish in the top six, and to have a good run in the FA Vase and FA Cup would be nice."