Eastbourne United manager Tobi Hutchinson isn’t targeting the title this season but insists his side will be extremely competitive.
Hutchinson is delighted with his squad as he prepares for his first full campaign in charge at the Oval. The bulk of last season’s squad remain along with a few additions that have improved strength and depth.
However, he believes the likes of Haywards Heath, Shoreham, Pagham and Eastbourne Town will be tough nuts to crack in this year’s Southern Combination Premier. “I certainly feel this will be one of the strongest county leagues we have had in the last 10 years.
“The top four will probably take care of itself. When you look at the budgets and the players they can attract, then you have to say they are ones who are going for it.
“I would put ourselves in a little group behind them. You’ll probably see us fighting it out with the likes of Horsham YM, Chichester, Loxwood, Lancing and Newhaven.
“We are very much looking forward to it. We have a great group together this season. We have not only brought in some good players but we have added great personalities to the dressing room. Players that want to be here to enjoy their football, not just because of the wages.”
Hutchinson added to his team that finished midtable last season with the likes of Jamie Salvidge, Jack Divall and Danny Andrews. While talented youngsters such as Tyler O’Callaghan have been promoted to the first team.
Hutch added, “There were a few players that I targeted but on the whole players have come to us. I pride myself on being a coach and we have had some great sessions here. Many of the lads have had a couple of sessions with us and then they want to sign. Even if they have gone away, tried somewhere else, they came back because they like what we are doing here.
“A big thing for us was also getting our under-21s sorted. Not all the players can be in the first each week. Sometimes they will drop into the 21s and when they do, it’s no good if it’s a complete shambles.
“Steve Worsell has joined us this season from Hailsham and the work he has done already is fantastic. It’s a massive step forward in what we are trying to achieve here.”
Alongside his duties in the dugout, Hutchinson is also chairman of Ratton Rangers youth football and they have made their links official. From the age of under-14s Ratton will merge into Eastbourne United.
“It’s about building for a future and offering the youngsters a pathway all the way to through to senior football. It’s not just about the first team. We are trying to lay the foundations that will leave the club in good shape for years to come.”
First order of business for United will be their FA Cup clash at Tunbridge Wells tomorrow. Far from ideal for the first competitive match of the season, they will be without seven first teamers with Liam Baitup, Danny Andrews, Divall, Tobi Clifford, Ryan Paul, O’Callaghan and Max Hollobone all missing.
“We will still put out a competitive side and that is a measure of the progress we have made. Tunbridge will be tough, they were FA Vase finalists three seasons ago.”