Burgess Hill Town FC begin their Ryman League Premier Division campaign this Saturday, when they make the 250-mile round trip to Suffolk based Needham Market.
The Hillians will be racking up the mileage this year following their promotion from the Ryman South, as they embark on their first ever season in the seventh tier of English football.
Manager Ian Chapman has overseen an indifferent pre-season schedule, including a 0-0 draw with League 2 outfit Northampton Town, and convincing wins over Loxwood, South Park and Peacehaven & Telscombe. They’ve also suffered heavy defeats to Crawley Town and Three Bridges, however, Chapman is confident his squad will be ready for kick-off come Saturday.
“Pre-season has been one of highs and lows performance wise, we need to get more consistency in our game. We have at times been excellent, and we seem to be scoring plenty of goals, but as a team, defensively we have been really poor and this week’s training will be all about trying to rectify that.”
There hasn’t been a huge overhaul of the squad at the Green Elephants Stadium over the summer, but after losing Greg Luer to Hull City in January, Rob O’Toole and Spencer Slaughter have also left the club to join local neighbours Haywards Heath Town. In addition, long-serving right-back Neil Watts is expected to miss the season through injury.
Chapman has made five signings to supplement his familiar pool of players, with former Brighton & Hove Albion star Tommy Fraser the marquee acquisition of his transfer dealings. Fraser, who plays central midfield, made over 100 appearances for the Seagulls during a three-year spell in the first team, and joins from Lewes.
This is my first session back training, so during the next couple of weeks I want to get some minutes under my belt and then hopefully push in for the first teamWill Miles
The club have also secured the services of wide-man Josh Jones from Peacehaven, central-midfielder George Branford from Bognor Regis Town, and strikers Phil Johnson and Chris Smith, formerly of Hassocks and South Park respectively.
Youngster Will Miles is ruled out of the opening match through injury having missed all of pre-season, and it has been a frustrating time for Ryman South team of the year defender.
Miles was involved in some light training on Tuesday and said: “This is my first session back training, so during the next couple of weeks I want to get some minutes under my belt and then hopefully push in for the first team.”
After Saturday’s match, the Hillians host VCD Athletic on Wednesday 12th August and Grays Athletic on Saturday 15th August, and Chapman is hoping for the same levels of support that helped the club to the Ryman South title last season.
Chapman said: “It is a really exciting time for the club, last season the support the team got from the fans was incredible and it really helped the players, long may that continue.”
For a comprehensive preview of Hill’s season, visit the club’s YouTube channel; Hillians TV, where you can watch interviews with Ian Chapman and Will Miles ahead of their game at Needham Market on Saturday.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!