Saunders: “It was a great season”
And so, as the dust has fully settled, we caught up with manager Shaun Saunders to get his thoughts on the highs of the recent campaign, as well as looking ahead to the exciting prospect of Isthmian Premier League football. But first, a trip to Mallorca for the gaffer. And boy, did he deserve it…
“I was going away on the Sunday with my wife for a week, we went to Alcúdia, I read a book and yeah, slowly let it start sinking in… it was a great season.”
A great season indeed…but did you always have the belief that this squad could achieve promotion in your first full season?
“Yeah, I did, and, that’s an old cliché I know, but I always trusted them — even when we got some bad results along the way — I always felt that ‘it’s okay, it’s a long season – a marathon, not a sprint, but we were going to be in the mix’. I think I said many times that there’s a long way to go, a lot of twists and turns, but I always expected us to be in the mix by the end. And I thought if we reach the playoffs then we’re going to be tough to beat, and that proved to be the case in the end. I was always confident in this group, a great group.”
How does the prospect of Isthmian Premier League football sound to you?
“It’s great! I was in it a while ago when it was Ryman Premier with Peacehaven [& Telscombe] when we got there with my first club, so I’ve had a taste of it before. It’s a good level, a good standard with some good teams in it so yeah, I’m really excited at the prospect of us being there next season. The club needs to be, at minimum, playing at this level – it’s a big club, and I’m really pleased for everybody that we managed to get it over the line.”
Was there a single moment in the season that you considered to be a turning point in your team’s quest for promotion?
“Yeah, Burgess Hill away! That was the big turning point for me. We hit a wobble trying to play a certain way up until that game, and then I decided to change the shape a little bit. We got a 1-0 win there and then we got some good results off the back of changing the way we played. I can’t remember the game before it, but I think we got a dodgy result a week before the Burgess Hill game and we just had a few things go against us. But that was the turning point for me, without a doubt, because just went a little more direct with two up front.”
Will you be looking to further strengthen your squad ahead of the new campaign?
“You have to! It’s like any club: if you jump leagues then you need to add to the group. It’s always a merry-go-round at this time of year, and there’s some players that might struggle at this level, so you’re always looking to be better, and you have to add quality when moving leagues, and especially this one. If you don’t add three of four players of real quality to the group then it could be a long season. We’ve got the momentum, we’ve got great team spirit, we want to keep the core of the side together and add the quality that I feel can get us up to the right end of the table next season. So yeah, we’ve got to add.”
So, now that we’re in a new league, what ambitions do you have for the campaign ahead?
“Our ambitions, obviously, like anybody that goes into any league, you set the bar really high. We want to try and replicate what we did last season. I’m not going to go into it thinking that we just need to stay in this league… we want to be at the right end of the table next year. We’re ambitious, we’ve got the bit between our teeth, and we want to be at the right end of the table next season, for sure.”
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