After the heartbreak of narrowly missing out on automatic promotion to Continental Star last time around, Southam….
….United will hoping to go one better when the Athium Midland Combination Premier kicks off on August 4th.
However, Saints boss Luke Fogarty will have to do it without a number of key players from the last campaign.
Midfielder James Hardie is returning to university, while Jack Taylor and Tunde Ajibade are both understood to be signing for Baker Joiner Midland Alliance side Coventry Sphinx.
Top scorer Simeon Smith, who netted twenty-two goals for Saints in just seventeen appearances, is training with Blue Square Bet Premier side Tamworth.
“We should start the season as the team everyone will want to beat and our priority will be to go one better than last time and win promotion” said Fogarty.
“Losing Simeon will be a blow to us, but he is a smashing lad who is popular with everyone around the club and we all wish him well at Tamworth.
“If it doesn’t work out, then we would love to have him back.”
Fogarty has moved to plug the gap in midfield left by Hardie’s departure by re-signing the experienced Luke Cole. Also returning is striker Jim Graham, who was the club’s leading scorer under assistant-manager Barry Shearsby three seasons ago, and Jamie Coleman, who missed much of last season with injury.
“Jim has had a season out from the game, but he is still only 24 and was a regular scorer for us before,” said Fogarty. “Jamie won’t be available for the start of the season, but is a versatile player, who will add quality to the squad.”
Hopes of tempting Howard Forinton to the club permanently following a short, but successful, loan spell have been dashed, with the striker staying at Banbury United where he moved near the end of last season.
But Fogarty is still optimistic about signing an experienced central defender before the start of the season.
The midweek friendly at Priors Marston, which was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, was one of just five pre-season fixtures, but Fogarty believes the emphasis should be on quality not quantity.
“We’ve got games of varying difficulty, with Heather St John’s the team likely to give us the best footballing workout.
“I much prefer to spend pre-season working with the players on the training field as it’s an approach that has worked for me in the past.”
Saints have to start at the very beginning of this year’s FA Cup competition, with the carrot of a trip to Halesowen Town on offer for an extra preliminary round victory at Dudley Town. While relishing the challenge, Fogarty is not getting carried away with chasing cup glory.
“Every club at our level loves a good cup run, but it’s not the main goal for us.
“We would fancy our chances at Dudley Town, but going to Halesowen would be a stiff task.
“They are a great club with a proud history and, while we would have a good day out, they are two levels above us and would be a tough challenge.”
In the FA Carlsberg Vase, Saints will host either Continental Star or Ellesmere Rangers.
Fogarty has added former coach Andy Ellis to his backroom team and feels he has all the pieces of the jigsaw in place for another good season. But, while he is ambitious for the Banbury Road club, he is also realistic about what the new campaign holds.
“We will take matters seriously and be professional about what we do. But it is important to enjoy what is still an essentially amateur game and, while everyone wants to win, it is not the end of the world if we lose some matches along the way.”
Off the pitch, Saints have welcomed a new sponsor in Leamington-based Fitzpatrick Fitters, who have provided training tops and kit.
Owner Eddie Fitzpatrick, also a supporter of the `Find Madeleine` campaign, presented the new kit promoting the continuing search for Madeleine McCann, who disappeared while on holiday in Portugal in May 2007.