Hereford United boss Graham Turner is 'quietly confident' that his Edgar Street side can mount a serious challenge in their pursuit of the Holy Grail that is Football League status.

The Bulls achieved a string of promising results in pre-season and are eager to open their Nationwide Conference campaign against newly-promoted Tamworth on Saturday.

United finished sixth last term - one place outside the inaugural Conference play-offs and it equalled their highest Conference finish achieved in the first season following relegation from the Football League in May 1997.

Turner said: "The bulk of our squad remains from last season but we have added to it during the closed season with the signings of Wales international Ryan Green, strikers David Brown and Danny Carey-Bertram, former Telford midfielder Jordan King and left-sided player Dean Craven, who spent two seasons with Shrewsbury."

Right-back Green is a former Wolves, Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday defender.

The 22-year-old is an exciting signing for the Bulls, having represented Wales three times.

In fact, Cardiff-based Green became the youngest-ever player to represent the principality when he was 17 years 226 days old.

Turner, looking forward to the new season, acknowledges that his United squad may lack an 'old head' - with Steve Guinan and Jamie Pitman, at 27, the oldest players at the club.

But Turner said: "What the side, perhaps, lacks in age, we more than make up for it in terms of energy and fitness. And, actually there is plenty of experience in Brown, who started his career at Manchester United, Tretton, Guinan, Tony James, Ben Smith and Pitman."

He added: "Like most small clubs, finances are always tight at Hereford, but we quietly think that we have a good chance of being up there and don't want to lose anyone at this stage. If somebody were sold at this stage, it would have a demoralising effect on the team and the supporters. We realise that some of the players will attract the attention of clubs from a higher level. And we must accept that some times we are likely to lose a player or two."

Turner admitted that he was a little disappointed at the overall return of goals from his strikers last season, although he was satisfied with the 14-goal tally of leading marksman Guinan.

"We did not score enough goals last season, although Guinan gave a decent return," said Turner.

"I think that we need our strikers to score around 30 to 40 goals between them this season, and if they do, we will be well on the way to achieving our aim of pushing for a promotion place."

"We have a couple of experienced strikers in Brown and Guinan, and we also have the pace of Carey-Bertram, who has a good technique and makes some very intelligent runs. I think we have got a number of players in the club who want to play at a higher level and I feel that we have a number of players capable of doing that."

Turner thinks that Dagenham, who have had a big clearout, will, again, be pushing for promotion, as could Shrewsbury, who remain free of financial problems. He believes that other strong challengers for the Conference title will be Telford and Stevenage, who have both invested heavily, and Chester City. He thinks that Morecambe, who finished runners-up last season, will be another club chasing for honours.

With the resignation in the closed-season of United chief scout Ron Jukes, who subsequently defected to Shropshire rivals Telford, Turner and coach Richard O'Kelly had a busy summer in their pursuit of players.

Turner said: "There has been a lot of hard work, phone calls and some disappointment. But we are not unhappy with the squad we have assembled. The players have worked exceptionally well in pre-season. We have worked on conditioning, with fitness tests at Gloucester University, and a lot of the pre-season work has involved the ball. We haven't done a lot of running up hills."

Central defender James is the new Hereford club captain and is starting his sixth season at Edgar Street, having joined United from West Bromwich Albion in 1998. The 24-year-old Welshman has appeared in 178 Nationwide Conference matches for the club, the most by a Hereford United player.

Looking ahead to the opening match of the season against Tamworth, Turner said: "It couldn't be a tougher match to start because it will be Tamworth's big day - their first match in the Conference.

"They have got a couple of experienced players in their side and their ground is compact, with a capacity of 4,000, so it will be an intimidating atmosphere."