CARL ADAMS believes he has a squad with the talent and determination to keep pushing Stratford Town forward over the next two to three seasons.
Adams stressed the immediate target is victory on Saturday against Biggleswade Town to nudge Stratford closer to securing their Southern League Premier Division status.
However, establishing the club at Step Three is the longer goal and the Town manager says the theme in developing the squad this season has been to build the foundations to progress.
“I made the decision at the start of the season to go with younger players and to stick with them. I’m trying to build this team for the next two to three years,” said Adams.
“I don’t want to be chopping and changing each season. I don’t want to be making wholesale changes.
“I have to accept there will be ups and downs but they need to learn from this season. We have been in winning positions but we need to get ourselves over the winning line.
“That’s the important thing. I want the players to learn and improve as a group.”
While he accepts he could face a battle from other clubs for key figures in the summer, he believes the united spirit already in place will help keep players at the DCS and attract new recruits.
“I’m trying to sell the idea that we all need to love the club,” said Adams.
“I’ve been in football long enough to know that clubs will always try to cherry-pick your better players. That’s happened to us this season and I have had to rebuild.
“If bigger clubs with bigger budgets come after your players, there’s not a lot you can do financially. But if you have been able to create the right environment, you’ve got a real team that enjoys their football and being together that works in your favour.
“The players are a friendly bunch, they go out together and that’s how you build a strong team spirit.
“The big plus for next season is that I know these players will be better players.”
The team ethic and potential was evident on Saturday when Stratford matched leaders Chippenham Town for 84 minutes until conceding a late match-deciding penalty in a 1-0 home loss.
Defender Liam Francis brought down David Pratt with a rash challenge and Bluebirds’ top scorer Andy Sandell tucked away the spot-kick past keeper Niall Cooper.
Adams described it as ‘bitterly disappointing’ but he stressed Town need to build on the positives when they entertain tenth placed Biggleswade on Saturday.
The Waders will be seeking revenge after losing at home to Town 12 days ago, Francis being the hero a week last Tuesday with the winner in a 2-1 victory which was Stratford’s first in seven matches.
“We’ve taken points off all of the top seven, apart from Chippenham, and we were five minutes away from doing that on Saturday,” said Adams. “It was frustrating because I think we certainly deserved something from the game.”
Town will be boosted by the return to fitness of joint top scorer Edwin Ahenkorah after seven weeks on the sidelines.
The striker, who has 12 goals, has not played since picking up a knee injury at Chesham on January 17.
Adams will also have defender Guy Clark and midfielder Barry Fitzharris available after suspension in what should be a full-strength squad.