Last week we were able to catch up with manager Danny Greaves about the upcoming season and what's in store for the league challenge ahead.
How are you feeling about this season? Danny Greaves: "I'm really looking forward to the season ahead after 2 successful, albeit part seasons in both league and cup respectively. Hopefully we can use the frustration of what 'might have been' in each of those two null and void seasons as added fuel for this new campaign.
Have you watched the player interviews from the signings? DG: "Yes I have, it's great to see, and you will have noticed in previous player interviews, most, if not all of the lads who have re-signed have spoken about their ambitions to deliver a promotion. This shows the ambition and mentality we have instilled in the group, but I must also add we are respectful of the competition, and know there are 18 other teams who will have the same ambition before the season starts. It's always difficult to judge other seasons before the season actually starts but how are you feeling about the league opposition this season? DG: You only have to look at Cirencester's run over the past 12 months who would be runaway leaders, and Totton who are paying fees for National League players to understand we have our work cut out. That's not to mention the likes of local clubs Larkhall, Paulton and Melksham who were all in playoff positions 18 months ago. Winchester have consistently been a playoff team. Evesham and Sholing are strong teams with history of being in promotion challenges. Then you have teams who haven't previously challenged like Bristol Manor Farm making lots of noises about winning the league and making big signings, and new boys Plymouth Parkway who have acquired many Southern Premier players over the past few years to storm to promotion and will fancy themselves to carry that momentum on into this league. You will always get an outsider emerge from nowhere like Slimbridge who were top 6 in the early part of last season, and I fancy Bideford who are always a tough nut to crack, to have a good run.
That's a lot of competition... I think I may have mentioned every team, but that's how competitive this league is, so we know we have to be hungrier, fitter and more dedicated than the rest over a long hard 8-9 months to achieve our ultimate aim of a promotion, through any means.
Your squad announcement shows a perfectly retained squad was that difficult to achieve? DG: We have retained all of last season's squad and we have no new additions. My main objective over this pause was to retain my existing squad and I am thrilled to be able to do that. Our players had lots of offers as we always expect as they are top players for this level, so shows what we are doing as a club, and also our ambition matches theirs to ensure we retained them. Any new signings on the way? Last summer we made 4 new signings, and we didn't get the chance to see what they can all do. I have full belief and confidence in all of our players that we have a squad capable of competing with the best in this league. We do have a couple of trialists coming in, and a couple of the academy lads who I have seen a fair bit of recently, like the exciting Luke Johnson coming to join us during pre season. As always we will be keeping our ear to the ground, and be out watching games continually looking for anyone who can strengthen our group within our financial constraints.
Your backroom staff has also a familiar look to it? From a staff perspective I'm delighted to say all of last year's staff (Neil Simons, Alan Bull, Simon Monks, Bash) will be returning, while Martyn Penny will have to significantly cut back his involvement due to work commitments, he will still be around when he can. We are pleased to add Sara Hillman to our staff, joining from Melksham, she has been brilliant so far and will be a welcomed addition.
In our last interview you were keen to mention the support of our Supporters club... DG: On that point, I must give a massive shout out and thank you to our magnificent Supporters club (under the Chairmanship of previous Chairman Geoff Morton-Norris and current Chairman John Turner) who do so much to support me and the whole club. From the minute I walked in they have always done all they can to back me and help where they can. Without their hard work and efforts we would not be able to put together the squad we have. As well as fund raising activities they also carry out jobs around the ground which nobody sees. So once again, thank you, it is appreciated.
How has it been returning to training... DG: We were all really excited and it feels like the first day of a new School year as we return to training. The players have had fitness plans and we have been monitoring them though the last few weeks building up to our return. I have to say the fitness levels are very good. Is it straight in full speed or building up to the start of the season with some big game in preseason? We eased them in and continue to build them up to our first game away at Keynsham, where we were happy with how the game progressed. We've got tough home tests Bath City, Weston, Yate Town, and Bristol Rovers U23's to Badgers Hill and hope the fans will come out and enjoy what should be great show piece games after so long with no football. Where performances and progress is the most important factor. We also have further away games at Hallen, and finally end away at Taunton before the big kick off. I would like to thank all of those clubs and managers for agreeing to come to us or host us this summer.
And final comments? I would just like to say, I hope all of our volunteers, partners, supporters and staff are all safe and well, and well on the way to full vaccination as we hopefully near the end of a very tough 18 months for the whole world. And let's hope we can have a full season of uninterrupted football with hopefully something the celebrate at the end of it.