Are you happy with how pre-season preparations have gone?
Very happy, to be honest. With such a large majority of players returning to us, we have been able to concentrate on the fitness levels and this has been beneficial in our preparations. The results have generally been good and, apart from the disaster when we played Godalming, most performances have been decent. Winning a couple of trophies, albeit pre-season ones, was nice. It is good to have the Mick Burgess one in our clubhouse. The players have worked very hard and we can only hope that they get their reward once the season starts.
Hhaving achieved the on-field stability the club set out for last season, could you tell us what the expectations are for this season?
When the committee spoke to me at the end of last season, they asked for a top 6 finish, which we really could have achieved last time with a bit more consistency plus, in fairness, a bit more luck with injuries later on. However, having got the squad back together and then analysed the type of teams we came up against, I really feel that we are capable of really going for it. I know this reply will set me up to be quoted saying that we are now going to win it, but it is a genuine belief that I and about 10 managers around the league will have. If we can get a good start and gain some momentum, we really feel that we should aim for the top and see where we ultimately end, We have all worked hard to set a platform for a good season, and will continue in this manner.
What did you learn from the club’s first season in the CCL?
Well I hope that everyone learned that it is a very tough and competitive league with many, many good quality players. Even teams in the lower reaches of the league will have at least two very good players who, on their day can hurt the opposition. What we do know is that we need to ensure that we close out games when we are dominant and thus ensure the three points do not become one, or even none (Guildford City). It will again be very tough and whoever does gain promotion will go up well equipped to deal with the higher leagues.
With the vast majority of last season’s squad having been retained over the summer, do you feel that this is the strongest squad you have assembled since you joined the club?
We are certainly stronger than last year, not necessarily because we have any better players but because we have started with a settled base and have been able to put the emphasis on fitness. We pretty much know the strengths and weaknesses of our players, so that must make us a better unit all round. With regard to strongest ever, it is difficult to say as we are not comparing like for like level-wise. On Saturday, the Leatherhead boss did say we seemed more of a Ryman squad than a CCL one, and I would say that if we were competing in the Ryman I would be perfectly happy with our current group.
I’m sure you would have been keeping half an eye on the comings and goings of other clubs in the division. Who do you expect to be the main title challengers this season?
Chertsey will be up there. I also expect North Greenford to be challenging again, with Badshot Lea seeming to be making noises about being strong. Camberley and Cove should both start well, although there have been many comings and goings at both clubs. Epsom have maintained a strong squad, so will be a challenge for anyone, and there will almost certainly be one or two surprise packages like most leagues. I reckon Molesey may be worth keeping an eye on, but there will probably be 10 teams in the early mix.
The nature of your day job has led to rumours that you might be playing a more active role in helping the club manage its well-publicised debts. Is there any truth in these rumours?
“rumour – general talk or hearsay of doubtful accuracy” – Concise Oxford Dictionary.
My football has always been a release from work, this being the case since I started with Egham as a 16 year old, and that will not change. I will certainly be taking no role in anything other than the football.