HAVING pace to burn should help Hadleigh United get off to a flying start in their Ridgeons League Premier Division campaign.
The Brettsiders, who finished ninth last season, host Great Yarmouth Town in the curtain-raiser on Saturday (3pm) with Stuart Crawford having brought eight new players in to make up an 18-man squad.
And the big difference he has pin-pointed from last year is an abundance of speedsters who he believes will be giving the leagues defenders nightmares from day one.
He said: “This year’s squad have got a lot more pace than last year: Camillo Douglas, Alan Ross, Remi Garrett, Danny Allen, Warren Taylor-Holt are all quick and Callum Smith, who is just coming through, is frighteningly quick. We are going to be a lot harder to play against in the final third than last year.”
While captain Duane Wright and last season’s top scorer Josh Mayhew have gone to Ryman League side Needham Market (the latter on trial), Crawford has taken left-back Ben Wake and midfielder Michael Steward to the Millfield from the Marketmen as his marquee signings.
But 24-year-old right-back Ross Rands (Ransomes Sports), 23-year-old left-back Jon Ince (Wickham Market), 34-year-old centre-back Simon Head (Leiston) and strikers Alan Ross, 27 (Walsham), Darren Mills, 22 (Army) and Camillo Douglas, 21 (AFC Sudbury) have also joined.
Crawford said: “I am pleased with the signings, the ones we have got from the SIL clubs we have done our homework with and even though they are not so-called big names we know they are good players and I think we have more balance to the squad this year, rather than last year when we had a few weak spots, particularly down the left.
“We have two people vying for every place on the pitch and there is fierce competition.”
But while inside the dressing room his squad are quietly confident of a big season, the Hadleigh boss is rather more coy about their goals, insisting consistency will be the buzzword to better last season.
“In the dressing room we have high ambitions and outside we are trying to look to improve in what we have done and make sure we are going upwards rather than falling backwards,” he said.
Looking ahead to Saturday, against last season’s 14th-placed side, the Brettsiders’ boss said: “He did quite well with the squad he had at his disposable and I have been reading they lost some key players in the summer.
“They came to us in August last year and beat us 4-1 when we were still trying to get ourselves together.
“They will work hard and be big and strong, how much quality they will have I do not know but the first day of the season is always a funny one.”
There is then little rest for Crawford’s men before a trip to Brantham Athletic on Tuesday (7.45pm) as the season gets into full swing.