Cornard United manager Paul Grainger believes his squad have the potential to make a ‘massive improvement’ on the club’s recent league positions.
Ahead of their 20th consecutive campaign in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division, Grainger is looking to avoid another finish in the bottom two in 2015-16.
“We’re looking at the top half,” the Ards boss said. “That would be a massive improvement considering the last five years the club have finished in the bottom two.
“It’s definitely achievable, based on the squad ability-wise. But it will depend on how we gel and if we can keep hold of them when the season starts.
“We don’t pay our players and there’s some ridiculous money being thrown around by clubs in this division and the one above (Premier Division).”
Cornard start the new season at home to Downham Town on August 8, before visiting Rosemary Lane for a local derby at Halstead Town on August 11.
And heading into their opening day clash with Downham in two weeks, Grainger is pleased with how his squad is shaping up for the season ahead.
“Virtually all of last season’s squad have stayed which means there haven’t been too many changes,” he said. “We’ve got a lot bigger and stronger squad than we did last season.
“Rene Swann is back again and will bring goals, and Rowan Drann is also back. He’ll be like having a new signing, after he missed most of last season with a back injury.”
Captain Dave Dowding and last season’s top goalscorer Ezra Drann are among those to have also re-signed for Grainger’s side, while the Ards have beaten off competition from several Premier Division clubs to bring in striker Tom Lampshire.
“Tom has looked very sharp so far,” Grainger said. “He was at Old Newton the season before last and had last season out.
“He’s very quick and will help provide a real goal threat on the pitch.”
Both Dranns were on target in United’s pre-season friendly against FC Clacton on Friday night, with Nathan Finan also getting on the scoresheet to complete a 4-2 victory over their higher level opponents.
Cornard followed that up with a 4-0 home defeat to Premier Division outfit Felixstowe and Walton United on Tuesday.
Grainger’s side are set to host local rivals Long Melford at Blackhouse Lane tonight (7.45pm).