PERSHORE Town will be competing in the toughest Step Six league in the country when the 2017-18 season kicks off tomorrow (Saturday), says manager Quentin Townsend.
The boss is under no illusions about the challenge in Midland League Division One, with a mix of clubs with big budgets, big histories and big ambitions.
With the likes of relegated Walsall Wood drafting in players from two or three levels higher, plus phoenix clubs Hinckley AFC, Ilkeston and Paget Rangers, as well as regular challengers Atherstone Town and Leicester Road and a revitalised Studley, Townsend expects it will be a hugely competitive division.
“I think the Midland League Division One is the toughest Step Six in the country,” said Townsend.
“We’re playing teams that have big traditions and big budgets.
“We’re understand that but we can be competitive.”
It is ten seasons since Pershore finished in the top half of the table but that will be the goal when the season begins with a home game against Heather St John’s tomorrow.
On Tuesday, Studley make the visit to the King George V Stadium.
“Pershore haven’t been in the top half of the table for six or seven seasons so we know the challenge,” added Townsend.
“If we can do that it will be a good season.”
Townsend says he learned plenty in his first full season of Pershore last season, but they tottered above the relegation zone until a spirited final few months of the season.
He has been built on the nucleus of last season with a variety of young prospects such as Danny Moy and Michael Wright, as well as the experienced Robbie Ager.
One of the summer signings, Mitch Butterworth, bagged a hat-trick in last week’s friendly win against Evesham United, while one of the stalwarts, Dane Aldington, netted twice in Tuesday night’s 3-2 defeat to Malvern Town.
Getting the right blend will be key, admits Townsend.
He switched to a 3-5-2 formation in the last few friendlies because of enforced changes with centre-back pairing Shaun Griffiths and James Walker unavailable, but the manager intends to stick with the tactics.
“I’ve never been a fan of 3-5-2,” said Townsend.
“As a former centre-half, I’ve never enjoyed it.
“But it has made a huge difference in our performances.
“We’ve got the players who can adapt.”
Townsend also says having a versatile squad will be a huge asset.
Dean Waldron and Will Stallard can slot into defence while Steve Webb, Steve Roche and Ager provide other options.