After a summer of turmoil, New Hadleigh United first-team manager Stuart Alston is desperate to prove those who have already written the club off this season wrong.
After stepping up from his coaching roles with both the reserve and under-18s sides at the club to replace former manager Ian Brown at the helm, Alston endured an immediate baptism of fire with severe financial restrictions resulting in all but three first -team players departing The Millfield during the close season.
But having steadily rebuilt throughout the summer months, bringing experienced players like Michael Barwick, Tom Driscoll (both Walsham-le-Willows), Ben Elliott (Harwich & Parkeston), Ben Golding (Ipswich Wanderers) and Sam Mansfield (Long Melford) in, as well as promoting from within the reserve and youth ranks, the Brettsiders’ boss is in a bullish mood about the upcoming Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division campaign.
“It has been a difficult time with no budget whatsoever since I arrived,” explained Alston, whose side kick-off their campaign with a trip to Fakenham Town on Saturday (3pm).
“However, the state of the squad is nowhere as bad as some may think and we’re all really looking forward to the season.
“It has been a big turnaround of the squad, but I’m really happy with what I have got at my disposal and that is a really honest and hard working group of players,
“ We’ve brought in some really strong additions and what I will be looking to instil is a real siege mentality with everything that has gone on.
“People may look at the fact that we were champions a few years ago and finished seventh last season and now it seems like all doom-and-gloom, but that is not the case at all.
“The club’s ambition this season is to stabilise and not get relegated, but with the squad I have, I don’t think that will be an issue.
“My main incentive is to prove those who have already written us off wrong this season.
“I’ve managed to get the five key signings I really wanted and promoted well from within, so things are looking good for the start of the season; I can’t wait.”
Alston’s optimism has been reinforced with a fine run of results throughout pre-season that has seen his side clinch victories against Colchester United Under-18s (3-0), Whitton United (5-1), Debenham LC (7-1) and Ipswich Town Academy on Saturday (2-1).
“We have had four really strong wins during pre-season and have played some really good football,” added Alston, whose side was due to face Leiston in the Hadleigh Charity Cup last night.
“Obviously you can’t always read too much into pre-season fixtures, but I’ve been delighted with the response from the squad after a difficult summer.
“You have to keep everyone grounded but they’re all buzzing for the start of the new season.”
Hadleigh will be hoping to carry that form into Saturday’s trip to Clipbush Lane with Alston believing starting the season away from home could prove a positive.
“I think it could prove a blessing in disguise,” he said. “With everything that has gone on during the summer it might be a good thing being away from that pressure.”
“I can’t see any reason why we can’t return with all three points.”
n Long Melford continued their season preparations with a convincing 7-0 win over Boxted.
A first-half hat-trick from Scott Yearling and a brace for David Lorimer put Melford in the driving seat, with further goals following from Nathan Rowe and Matthew Chiang.