The curtain is ready to rise on the non-league football scene once again but this time, four new men are waiting in the wings ready to unleash their new-look teams on the town.
Eastbourne Town, Hailsham Town and Eastbourne United will all kick-off their 2013/14 campaigns this Saturday with a different manager at the helm, each eager to stamp their own mark on their respective clubs.
And with the slates firmly wiped clean and team-sheets freshly made-over, that sense of hope, optimism and expectation is back stronger than ever.
There is one familiar face in Ady Colwell, who returns for a second spell at the Saffrons as club manager of Eastbourne Town, alongside new team manager Kevin Laundon.
The pair had to deal with a complete player and back-room staff exodus as many followed former bosses Danny Bloor and Garry WIlson to Lewes, but they remain confident they’ve assembled a squad capable of finding stability in the Ryman South League and, more importantly, enjoying it.
Laundon said, “Our main aim is to enjoy it. I’ve got young players who need to fall back in love with football. If you love it, the results will come but if you don’t, they won’t. We’re looking toward the long term and, while we won’t drop out of the division, it may be that we need to take a small step back in order to move forward.”
Meanwhile, there’s an evident confidence that flows through the Eastbourne United management ranks, where boss Simon Rowland believes he‘d be ‘silly’ not to launch a promotion charge with the talented squad he’s tempted to The Oval.
The Sussex County League Division Two outfit were dealt a blow early in the summer with the loss of last season’s top-scorer Liam Baitup to rivals Town, but Rowland insists he’s pulled off a coup with the acquisition of Ryan McBride and Wes Tate, who make up a ‘great strike force’ for the new season.
Rowland said, “We’ve got a new squad and a new mentality, we’re looking to take the club one step further.
“Liam is a superb player but Ryan McBride is one of the most talented target-men in county football. He had offers to play in the Ryman League and we’re extremely lucky to have him.”
One tier above, in Sussex County League Division One, new Hailsham United boss Andy Goodchild has a priority other than immediate promotion. With the side having only risen to that division the season before last, Goodchild belives it would be ‘naive’ to suggest the side will finish in the top five.
Instead, he wishes to bring a new brand of football to the Beaconsfield that he believes will please the Stringers faithful.
He said, “The previous manager amassed a pretty strong side and did well with the players he had. However, it’s not the way I like to play football.
“They went back to front very quickly and I don’t think the people of Hailsham were that impressed with the style of football. My philosophy is to get the ball on the ground and play possession football.”
Hailsham will start their season at home to Lingfield while United will host Rustington in their curtain-raiser. Town will kick off the 2013/14 campaign away to Horsham.