Jamie Bradbury goes into his first season at the helm at Long Melford feeling they can spring more than a few surprises against the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division’s big spenders.
Ahead of their 2017/18 campaign kicking off on home turf against one of the rumoured big budget sides in Brantham Athletic on Saturday (3pm), the number one target will be to avoid being dragged into another relegation battle in their landmark 150th season.
The former Boxted Lodgers manager, who succeeded Jules Mumford having been his first-team coach last season, believes they can ruffle a few feathers after strengthing with four new signings, while keeping the majority of last year’s group, who finished 17th — two places above the drop zone.
“I think we are in a better position than where we were this time last year,” he said.
“We have quite a good solid squad and good links with the reserve team.
“I am pleased with how everything has gone so far.
“It will be a massive challenge with what other clubs are doing around the league.
“Our job is to try is to dig in and do what we can to cause a few upsets.”
Former Ipswich Town scholar Jamie Griffiths — who scored 31 goals in 2015/16 before a serious knee injury saw him confined to a coaching/mentoring role last term — is set to be the main miss.
But Luke Payne, described as a ‘strong technical forward’ has impressed in pre-season and scored five times in 12outings for Cornard United last season before a serious injury.
Michael Schofield, a 26-year-old hard tackling midfielder previously with Stanway Rovers and Wivenhoe Town, is also seen to be another key addition, while Bradbury feels Anthony Waugh’s return from a long injury will be like having another player.
“We have had four or five new faces coming in and I think they will add to the depth of the squad and strengthen us as well,” he said.
“On top of that there are two more players I am hoping to get over the line.”
One of those will be a number two goalkeeper to Darren Moyes, with three players having been given a go between the sticks during the pre-season friendlies, which have seen Melford take on a mixture of sides from as high as three levels above them (6-0 home defeat to Braintree Town) as well as two below them.
Before last Thursday’s final outing, Bradbury’s side had gone without a win and conceded 13 in three games while only scoring once. But they signed off with a 3-1 victory at Capel Plough with new boy Payne among the goals, along with tricky winger Hassan Ally.
The new manager also has a new coaching team around him with former Haverhill Rovers assistant Josh Shepherd as his number two and also now with Norwich City Thomas Gainsborough School Academy side coach Mick Garbi as his first-team coach.
And he is confident they can avoid another flirtation with relegation.
“Last year was one of those seasons where, in certain situations, things could have gone the other way. We lost a lot of games by a single goal,” he said. “In some games we were excellent, but it is trying to get that consistency, desire and hunger to be better than the teams we are playing.
“Ultimately, as a club of Melford’s size we are doing ever so well. What Jules Mumford did before to get us into this division was a brilliant achievement.
“To stay there is always going to be the first target, but at the same time we are aiming a bit higher than that and want to be a solid team in this division and to be a place where people do not want to come.”