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Cherries: Gregory insists club 'must' gain promotion
AMBITIOUS midfielder Steven Gregory has welcomed Cherries ’ sky-high expectations and admits: “Promotion is a must.”
The 25-year-old revealed Cherries had set their sights on a place in the Championship as he previewed the start of the competitive season.
Paul Groves’s men kick off their campaign with a League Cup first round clash against Oxford United at Kassam Stadium tonight (7.45pm).
After that, all eyes will be on Cherries’ form in the third tier when they begin their push for honours at Portsmouth on Saturday.
Boss Groves has signed no fewer than eight new players during a summer which has seen Cherries invest heavily to build a 29-man senior squad at Goldsands Stadium.
That has put them among the bookmakers’ title favourites – while chairman Eddie Mitchell has stressed that promotion is his target.
Gregory, who joined Cherries from AFC Wimbledon last summer, insists that goal does not faze the players.
He told the Daily Echo: “There are so many different players here already – the squad is absolutely massive – but it is good.
“It will be an exciting season. We are looking to get automatic promotion. Failing that, we want to go up in the play-offs. Promotion is a ‘must’.
“The pressure and expectation is part and parcel of it all so I don’t think anyone is worried too much about that. It is nice to be pushing for something.”
Gregory scored two goals in 32 appearances in all competitions during his debut season last term. He is now battling the likes of Harry Arter, Shaun MacDonald, Mark Molesley , Joe Partington and new recruits Richard Hughes and Eunan O’Kane for a starting spot in central midfield.
Gregory added: “There is massive competition in every position – it is not just in midfield. It is healthy for the team and, hopefully, it will bode well for us.
“If you are given the opportunity to play, you have got to make the most of it. If you have a bad game, you will be out of the team.”
Gregory will be keen to get the nod at Oxford tonight – with family and friends likely to make the short trip from nearby Thame, where he grew up.
He spent a brief time at Oxford during his early footballing days before joining Wycombe Wanderers at the age of 10.
Stephen Purches, Wes Fogden, Charlie Sheringham, Darryl Flahavan and Frank Demouge all miss out through injury, while O’Kane is on international duty with Republic of Ireland under-21s.
Hughes is not yet match fit and Tommy Elphick is not expected to be risked, but Cherries are hoping to get international clearance for Jonathan Meades in time for him to be available.
U’s: (from) Clarke, Batt, Raynes, Wright, Capaldi, McGinty, Cox, Chapman, Craddock, Forster-Caskey, Constable, Smalley, Potter, Rigg, Pittman, Heslop, Brown.
Cherries: (from) Jalal, Francis, Bowles, Cook, Addison, Barrett, Zubar, Daniels, Meades, Partington, Pugh, Arter, Gregory, MacDonald, McDermott, Grabban, Molesley, Thomas, Tubbs, McQuoid, Fletcher.