RETURNING favourite Lee Smith has stated his unerring belief that Bury Town can win the Ryman League this season by declaring the Blues good enough for the Conference.
The 23-year-old midfielder left Histon after their relegation from the top flight to re-sign for Bury at the end of last month, just two years after moving in the opposite direction.
And he feels a touch of luck is all that is needed for the Ram Meadow-based outfit to make the jump from pyramid climbers to Football League hopefuls.
“Bury are far superior to the Histon team I was in last year,” said Smith. “I feel they would be good enough to challenge in the Conference with the team they have got.”
The Conference – currently branded the Blue Square Bet Premier – is just one level below the Football League and is filled with clubs of League pedigree, such as Luton Town, Lincoln City and Cambridge United.
Bury may be two levels below that at the moment, but Smith – who was close to signing for npower League One outfit Dagenham and Redbridge last summer – feels his Bury return is anything but a backwards step.
“Although it’s a step down in the pyramid, I’m coming to a better team that’s being recognised a lot more,” he added. “I don’t believe it’s a step down for me – it’s progression
“Charlton have just signed Nick Pope so people in the League are looking at Bury. I was close to being in the Football League before, I just need a break.”
The Blues returned to pre-season training last Thursday, with Smith – who can operate in the centre or on the right of midfield or defence – joining on Tuesday.
“As soon as I was back, it felt like I had not been away,” he said. “There’s still a few people there from my time before like Russell Short, Lee and Sam Reed and Tom Bullard.”
Smith progressed through the ranks at Bury under Richard Wilkins, and won the Ridgeons League in his first full campaign as a first-team player.
And he is confident history can repeat itself during his first season since returning to Ram Meadow.
When asked of his ambition for the team this season, Smith said: “Win the league. With the team we have got, we have to be aiming for that.”
Smith’s transfer to the Blues has also given him the opportunity to get away from a tough time at the Glassworld Stadium with Histon.
“It was a bit of a shambles regarding not getting paid for a couple of months at a time,” he said. “It wasn’t just the way they treated me, but quite a lot of players.”