Sammy Donnelly is convinced Shoreham Football Club will come back stronger following one of their toughest campaigns.
Mussels ended a first-ever season at Bostik League South level with a 4-0 defeat at Phoenix Sports on Saturday.
Shoreham, whose relegation was confirmed with four games to play, managed to muster just three wins all season as they were sent back down to the Southern Combination League.
The relegation was a first in 45 years of management for boss Donnelly but he insisted he and his squad will be better for the experience.
It was announced Donnelly, 70, would be staying on next season earlier in the year and the hope is a young, hungry squad can push up the SCFL Premier Division next season.
“I spoke to the players after the final game at Phoenix Sports and everyone wants to put this past season right.” Donnelly said.
“We’re going to come back for pre-season in the first week of June and really put the hard work in ahead of another season.
“I’ve got a young, hungry squad here now who will be out to prove themselves next season.
“I knew coming into the job how hard this season would be and it proved just that. It has been difficult but both me and the players here, particularly at the back end of the season, will only be better for it.
“They’ll be wanting to make sure they never experience a season like they have done ever again in their careers.
“It has been tough but we start fresh, in a different league, next season.”
Mussels ended what was just a one-season stay in the Bostik League South 22 points adrift at the bottom.
Along with Shoreham’s final-day defeat at Phoenix Sports, place-above Molesey saw off Faversham Town to leave Donnelly’s side cut further adrift in the final league table.
Donnelly is confident his team can be challenging near the top of the SCFL Premier Division next season but knows some tough tests will await them.
He added: “If you look at the teams who haven’t gone up this season; Chichester City, Horsham YMCA, Pagham, Saltdean United, they are all top teams and there always seems to be some surprise packages in that division as well.
“The good thing about this current crop of players I’ve got is that they are young and they want to be back training and playing.
“It’s been agreed that we’ll be coming back for pre-season in the first week of June, a little earlier than I would usually, but we want to make sure we are best prepared to really push on next season.”
Goalkeeper James Broad-bent, full-back Alfie Proto-Gates and Nick Collyer – the latter two both products of Shoreham’s successful under-18’s – have agreed on returns next season. Donnelly is confident of sealing the services of more players in the coming weeks.
He said: “I’ve had conversations with the vast majority of the squad and most of them have been positive. It’s good that we’ve got some committing for next season already.”