Joe’s summer update: part two

In part two of joint-boss Joe Conneely’s summer update, he discusses the United Counties Premier South, pre-season friendlies and hopes for the new season.

It comes ahead of the players’ return for pre-season training on Saturday, in preparation for the club’s first season at step five.

Placement in the UCL South sees a change from travelling to the West Midlands for away matches, with opponents now in Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire as well as six local derbies.

Conneely says that’s exciting, and will offer himself and Courtney Hunter-Belford a new test.

“We’ve got lots of new grounds and new clubs to visit and that’s exciting. We thought it’s where we would go so it’s nothing we didn’t expect. It’s a good league with good clubs in it and we’re looking forward to it.

“It feels like it did when we moved into UCL Division One for a year. Most of those clubs we hadn’t played before. The increase in travelling is what it is. The more success you have, the more you have to travel so that’s not an issue for us.

“It’s a great league and it’s good to be out of the Midland bubble where everyone knows everyone and there’s a lot going on.”

The new season will start on Saturday 27th July, with the league hoping release the opening fixtures early in that month. Conneely says the time will soon come around and he wants the players to hit the ground running in the first session on Saturday.

“Lots of the lads were still in Magaluf on Monday so we couldn’t start much earlier! We’ve got a five-week pre-season and that will be sharp. The end of July will come around quickly, so we’ve got to make sure we get what we can out of the boys.

“This is our first time at this level as managers too. Our favourite game last season was at Highgate (the League Cup semi-final), because that was what we need to expect going forward. We were in a proper game that night and had to be at our best to get a result albeit we lost on penalties.

“They’re the games you want to be involved in. We’ll have to think of ways to be better, the players will have to be better in their application. Everything has to raise a level now.”

Hinckley have five pre-season friendlies lined up, starting at Lichfield City on Saturday 6th July before games against Chelmsley Town, Sutton United, Rugby Town and Heather St John’s.

Conneely says the mix of step four, five and six opponents will give his side a good balance ahead of the start of the competitive season.

“Lichfield ideally would have been later but that’s how it fell with availability. They’re a fantastic side at step five, Ivor (Green, manager) has done well there. They’re free-flowing and score lots of goals. Chelmsley welcome us well and we agreed to play Sutton after we visited them in the league.

“Rugby is a good home friendly for us. They’re at step four and stayed up last year, it’s fairly local and they’re well-supported. That will feel like a proper game. And Heather will bring back good memories from last year after winning the title there. They’re another good side at step six who will test us.

“It’s only a couple of weeks away now and will soon come around, and we can’t wait.”

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