There is new blood in the Tauranga City United 2016 squad, but retaining one player was top priority during the close season.

After winning promotion to the Northern Premier League with a 4-0 win over Mangere United in the last game of the 2015 season, coach Duncan Lowry has bolstered his squad to prepare for life in the top flight.

The influential Jerahl Hughes was marked down as a "must keep" when decisions were being made on the make-up of the squad to be assembled to meet the new challenge. His contribution last season stretched well beyond the 21 goals he scored.

"He was the first one we signed," said Lowry. "He's the biggest piece of the jigsaw. He's living here and I think he's well settled and I think he's content here. He could have played ASB (Premiership), but he didn't. He didn't need to and didn't seem to want to, so he's had three or four months off as well, which is good for him.


"I think we'll see the best out of him again this year because he is a bit special."

Lowry has also cast his net wide, returning home to Northern Ireland and securing the services of a player who has played European Cup Winners Cup football. Specialist left back Cameron Grieve played for Lowry's former club Glenavon FC and for Dungannon Swifts in the Northern Irish Football League Premiership.

"He's come over and he's exceptional," said Lowry. "We've done ever so well for the last two years with a right-footed player playing left back. Sam Nahna played exceptionally well there, but he's a right-footed player playing out of position. This year I think we need the balance all around the park and we need left-footed players on the left side and right-footed players on the right side."

Mark van der Salm has also returned after a year in Australia playing in the Victorian State League, and Sam O'Regan is also back after a spell with Wairarapa United and Waitakere United in the ASB Premiership. Both are former skippers.

"The other young chap is someone who has played in the Manchester league, Chris Sussex."

United's opening game is away to Onehunga Sports tomorrow. Onehunga finished third in the Northern Premier League last season.

"I've been told to name a squad of 19, which has been the hardest thing in three years I've had to do. I could play quite comfortably 20 players in the first team. It's going to be uncomfortable for me on Friday to name a starting 11. Every position on the pitch is covered, everyone's fighting and training has been top-notch."

The only injury concern going into the opening game is to Jordan Culpepper who took a knock in training last week.