Eastbourne United’s new boss Simon Rowland is bullish about his side’s promotion chances for the coming season as they prepare to go into the campaign with a new-look squad after a summer of upheaval at The Oval - one that saw former boss Paul Daubeney depart alongside a whole host of players.
United have come agonisingly close to promotion in each of the last two seasons and the new manager is keen to look ahead to what he describes as a fantastic future for the club.
“We can’t go on what’s happened before, that’s all in the past,” he said. “We’ve got a new squad and a new mentality, we’re looking to take the club one step further.”
While one of the players to depart over the summer was star striker and last season’s top-scorer Liam Baitup, Rowland has faith in his new squad.
Baitup has been replaced by talented target-man Ryan McBride, who the United boss believes is more than capable of stepping into the striker’s shoes and has the quality to lead the line in United’s promotion push.
“Liam is a superb player but Ryan McBride is one of the most talented target-men in county football and on his day, he is nigh on impossible to mark.
“He had offers to play Ryman league and we’re extremely lucky to have him. He’s going to be an asset,” he said.
Quality additions have been acquired in all positions and the former AFC Uckfield boss knows that with the players at his disposal there comes a certain level of expectation, something he is keen to impose on his players as well.
“I’d be silly to say we shouldn’t challenge for promotion with these players,” he said.
“There is a lot of expectation at the club and the players are just going to have to get used to it.
“We’re going to be a lot of teams’ cup final this season, especially when we’re at home.”
Promotion might be the priority for the short-term but Rowland is looking to take the club further still, adding, “We’re going to try and get promoted this year and keep the majority of this squad, which I think can be competitive in the higher division next year.”
Mixed results during pre-season might suggest this is slightly ambitous but Rowland hasn’t had the entire squad together until now. Saturday’s opening-day league fixture, which sees United host Rushtington, gives the manager the first real chance to see his players in action, and he believes they will get stronger with time.
“We’ve had no time at all to prepare for the season, in reality our pre-season starts this Saturday.
“I think it’s going to take a good few games to get going and I think you’ll see the real Eastbourne United in mid-September.”
Eastbourne United v Rustington kicks off at 3pm.