HALSTEAD Town kick off their Ridgeons League First Division campaign at home to Downham Town on Saturday (3pm) with boss Jimmy Holder hoping to better last season’s 11th-place finish.
But just as high on his agenda this term will be nurturing young talent in the first-team and giving them a chance to shine.
With an average age of less than 21, Holder, who moved from the boardroom as chairman to the dugout as manager during last season, is keen not to put too much pressure on his young charges’ shoulders on the eve of the new season.
Reflecting on last season’s 11th place, out of a division of 17, he said: “I hope we do better than that, I hope we get some players progressing and enjoy it, there are no targets.
“It is very difficult, depending on individual and team development - you cannot put a timescale on that.
“Things could take off or move along slowly but what we have seen so far is encouraging.”
Holder has brought in young Cornard United forward Jordan Hutchings and Ryman League experienced central defender Chris Swan from Chichester City, with the later set to have a big role in guiding the younger players, like progressed academy midfielder Dan Sakal, through.
“He should be the most significant signing,” said Holder of Swan, “I am looking for him to mentor the youngsters as well as playing.”
As good as a new signing is the return to action of Holder’s right-hand man, player/coach Andy Joslin. The 21-year-old right-back or midfielder spent last season on the sidelines with a nasty cruciate knee ligament injury but has now returned to fitness and is raring to go ahead of Downham Town’s visit after getting a good pre-season under his belt.
“We could have had an easier or harder game but it is a good start to the season,” said Holder of the Downham opener, the side who finished second bottom last season.
“The first game is always a different level of intensity.
“We have had six friendlies (won three lost three) but when it kicks off it is a different game and we will find our a bit more about ourselves,” he added.
Holder will be preaching the art of playing short, simple football on the ground to his players, but will be just as keen on overseeing a better disciplinary record than last season.
“It will not be like last season and I am very strong on that side,” he said.
Following Saturday’s match Town face a trip to Histon’s Glasswells Stadium on Tuesday to play Cambridge University Press, who are groundsharing with the Blue Square Bet North side in the forthcoming campaign.