FOOTBALL: BRAKES boss Paul Holleran insists he’s relishing the challenge of taking on the Conference North this season, though admits there are some tough Saturday afternoons ahead.
Holleran, who joined Leamington in November 2009, appeared happy to break the back of pre-season as his side prepares for their first competitive fixture of the season this weekend against Gainsborough away from home.
The added hype to this season follows a dramatic playoff final victory in May, where Rob Thompson-Brown calmly converted a penalty with minutes remaining before Courtney Baker-Richardson scored the winning goal in the second half of extra time.
It means Brakes will play in the second tier of non-league football, just two divisions below local giants Coventry City.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, Holleran told The Observer Gainsborough are a well established Conference North side – and he believes they’ll present a tough opening challenge for his men.
He said: “We’ll need everybody in the opening few weeks.
“It’s a hectic start to the season, if anything there are too many games.
“Gainsborough are a well established Conference North side – they’ve had their relegation battles over the years but they’ve stayed up. That’s what I want us to do.
“We’ve finished mid-table before so that’s something we’ll want to achieve again.
“I’m not naive enough to presume we won’t have tough afternoons this season. But there are teams we can compete with.
“If we can use last season as a springboard there’s no reason we can’t have a positive season.”
Following Gainsborough, Leamington will play Tamworth at The Phillips 66 Community Stadium on Tuesday evening (7.45pm) before a home tie against Southport.
A larger presence of away fans can be expected at the Harbury Lane venue this year, something Holleran believes is fantastic for the club.
“One of the biggest pulls of the division is the clubs we are competing with,” said Holleran.
“You look at teams like FC United of Manchester and Stockport – they’ll be bringing hundreds of fans to away games, and that’s good for the club.
“I’m relishing the new season and personally determined to have a good year.”
Players likely to make their Leamington debuts this weekend include new recruits Liam Canavan, Joe Clarke, Colby Bishop, Junior English, and Dan Quigley.
Recruitment aimed at a specific mix of experience and youth has been Holleran’s trend – and he’s pleased with how preparations have gone off-field.
He said: “Overall I’m happy with recruitment. We lost one or two players we would’ve liked to keep but overall we have a good mix of experience and young exciting players.
“We desperately needed some experience prior to starting this season’s campaign and I believe we have that.
“It would’ve been nice to keep Jack (Edwards) but he’s a player that’s come through the non-league from step seven right up to the top tier.
“He’s getting into his late 20s now though and he probably sees it as a final chance to play at that level. He wants to give it a go and fair play to him, I wish him all the best.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Jack in a Leamington shirt though.”