NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Huntingdon Town chairman hopeful of progress in a crucial campaign

Huntingdon Town chairman Doug McIlwain. Picture: SUBMITTED

Huntingdon Town chairman Doug McIlwain. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

The most important season in the recent history of Huntingdon Town lies ahead.

That is the assessment of chairman Doug McIlwain as the Jubilee Park club prepare to do battle in United Counties League Division One again.

Town finished only one place and one point above the bottom two in a difficult 2018/19 campaign - their second at this level.

Original player-boss Daniel Woodhead resigned in October with current chief Jimmy Brattan returning to a role he had also occupied in the previous season when Town finished in a respectable 12th position.

Brattan will have a playing budget at his disposal next term but that means progress is essential for a club who were challenging at the top of the Premier Division only six years ago.

McIlwain said: "It's important we start moving forward again on the pitch and we're aiming to finish in the top half as a minimum next season.

"We have a playing budget for the first time in my tenure and it's up to Jimmy and his management team to make it work.

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"There is no point being in football without having the ambition to be successful and progressive. We don't want to stand still in the same league and we certainly don't want to be having to battle to stay in it as we did last season.

"We have a manager who is committed to the club and he also has a lot of loyal players who have confirmed they are staying with us."

Town returned for pre-season training last week with goalkeeper Quincy Shorunmu and defenders Callum Walter, Jonathon Goode, Wilkins Makate, Odie Wason and Sam Adams all staying.

Midfielders Christian Le, Ben Keating, Jakub Sulima and Adam Richardson are also back along with frontmen Corey Kingston and Sam Orrell.

Brattan has brought Chris Jones back to the club for a third spell while also drafting in striker Josh Rosser from Peterborough Northern Star and attacking midfielder Sean Roberts from Oakham United.

Town launch their new season on a Sunday evening. Their opening fixture is away to promoted Whittlesey Athletic on July 28 (5.15pm) as part of the annual Groundhop which takes place in the area.

But it's not just the first team that is crucial to the future success of Huntingdon Town, as McIlwain added: "We are focused on having the correct structure to build a healthy club for the long-term.

"We now have a reserve team which did well in their first season and we have added a further development team for 2019/20.

"Then the plan is to add an Under 18 side for the following season to give local lads a pathway into senior football. We want players of all ages and abilities in the Huntingdon area to have opportunities to play the game with Huntingdon Town.

"It is criminal that our excellent facilities have not been used to their full potential over the years and that is something we are making a priority of addressing."