CARL ADAMS says Stratford Town will need to build on their best ever pre-season to confront what he believes will be the toughest start for any team in the Southern League Premier Division.
Town are already on a mission to prove the bookmakers wrong, with Stratford being rated among the favourites to be relegated.
However, the early fixture list will test Town’s ability and resolve as they face four of last term’s top six in their opening eight matches.
After travelling to Premier newcomers St Ives Town on Saturday, the sequence begins with the opening game at the DCS Stadium against last season’s runners-up Redditch United on Tuesday.
“The start couldn’t have been much tougher for us,” said Adams. “We’ve got Redditch, Hitchin, Kettering and Leamington, who were all in the top six last season, in our first eight games and we’ve also got Basingstoke, who are one of the favourites.
“It would be a really difficult start for any team in the league, never mind a team that the bookies have got down as one of the favourites for relegation.
“The second half of last season was really tough for us and I suppose that’s why the bookies have us down as one of the teams fighting to avoid relegation. We need to establish ourselves as a Premier Division club.
“After the pre-season we’ve had we can’t wait to get going. It’s probably been my best pre-season as a manager but we have to transfer that into the league games.”
Stratford’s unbeaten friendlies run ended on Saturday with a 2-1 defeat at Bromsgrove Sporting, with Adams admitting it was a weary performance.
However, five wins, two draws and one defeat has convinced Adams that Town are in a stronger position than they were last term.
Adams confirmed midfielder Warren Brookes has become the latest signing after he impressed on trial, while another big boost has been the return to action of Edwin Ahenkorah.
A troublesome hamstring meant the striker missed the final four months of the season, having been top scorer at the time, but Ahenkorah has featured in the last couple of friendlies and netted twice.
It follows eight goals for Richard Gregory and three for new signing Mike Taylor to suggest there is plenty of creativity and finishing in Adams’ ranks.
“Edwin has come back and he is fully fit now,” the Town boss added. “It’s like having another new signing.”
“I feel we are in much better shape than this time last year,” said Adams. “The new lads have come in and settled in and made us stronger.”
Redditch, meanwhile, will be playing their opening two games of the new season at the DCS.
The Reds’ new artificial pitch at the Valley Stadium is not yet complete so their opening day match against Chesham United will be staged at the DCS. They will then be in the away dressing room on Tuesday.