PAUL Collicutt believes Evesham United will kick off 2017-18 with a stronger squad but it will be actions, not words, that count.
The Robins manager has snapped up half-a-dozen summer signings to bolster the squad which finished fifth last season in the Evo-Stik Southern South & West.
Collicutt has been in the game too long to make promises but he suggests Evesham will be better prepared than ever to challenge once again for promotion.
“We have brought in six or seven new faces and I would like to think we are stronger than last season,” said Collicutt.
“Any manager would like to think they start the season with a squad that is better than it was 12 months ago. The proof is in the pudding.
“The simple fact is that we have got to win more games than we did last season. I want to score more goals, concede less goal and hopefully if we do that we will win games.
“I’m not making any predictions about where we will finish. My only prediction is that my lads will be up for the challenge. Gerry [Oldham, assistant manager], Locky [coach Mark Lockwood] and myself have got to make sure the lads are prepared for every game.”
“Gerry [Oldham, assistant manager], Locky [coach Mark Lockwood] and myself have got to make sure the lads are prepared for every game.”
That begins tomorrow (Saturday) with a trip to Larkhall Athletic, while Evesham then meet Cinderford Town on Tuesday at the Jubilee Stadium.
Evesham have been pushing for promotion in the past couple of seasons, having finished runners-up in 2015, sixth in 2016 and then fifth last term.
They will be fancied to be contenders again but Collicutt concurs with the bookies who have Steve Claridge’s Salisbury City, beaten in the play-offs last term, as the team to beat.
“Salisbury are going to be one of the favourites, along with Taunton Town and Bristol Manor Farm, who have come up, are going to be decent,” said Collicutt.
“There are a lot of good sides who think they will be good enough. We have got to look after what we do than what others are doing.”
Evesham rounded off their pre-season with a 4-1 win at Southern Premier side Dorchester Town last Friday in what also proved to be an excellent bonding exercise as the players stayed overnight after the game.
Collicutt has been pleased with the build-up and how the new faces have gelled to leave all bar long-term casualties Liam Harding and Joe Turley in contention to face Larkhall.
“I’ve got a strong squad of 22-23 players now and people say ‘you’ve got some hard decisions to make for Saturday’,” said the manager.
“But I’d rather be in that position than having not enough. I remember when I took over three and a half years ago and after I took the job the chairman turned round and said ‘we’ve only got right players or training’.
“We’ve got a good nucleus now and it’s up to the players to show me what they can do in every game. It’s up to them to make it difficult for me to leave them out.”
While Harding has been ruled out for the entire season, Collicutt is hopeful Turley, who missed last season with cruciate ligament damage, could return by Christmas.