NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Will a summer of frustration be followed by a season of celebrating for Godmanchester Rovers?
- Credit: Archant
Ollie Drake is not a happy man.
There were no bold statements or big predictions from the Godmanchester Rovers boss on the eve of the new Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division season. Quite the opposite in fact.
Rather than talking up his side's chances of bettering their fourth and third positions of the past two campaigns to challenge for promotion, Drake instead reflected on the frustrations of a difficult summer at the David Wilson Homes Ground.
The young boss - who led the club to a Hunts Senior Cup and Hinchingbrooke Cup double last term is either genuinely worried or attempting to pull off the sort of bluff only usually seen at the World Series of Poker. Time will tell which of the above is correct.
"I'm feel let down by certain things on and off the pitch," said Drake ahead of a season-opening trip to reigning First Division North champions Swaffham Town this Saturday (3pm).
"Numbers have been poor, training hasn't been great and our performances in the friendlies have been very average.
"The thing that has irritated me the most is a lack of commitment from the players. I've not even been able to think about my strongest team due to us never having everyone available.
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"I'm always very honest and I have to admit I'm not too encouraged by what I've seen from us.
"I've even had my holiday ruined as I spent the whole time in Corfu on the phone trying to sign players.
"A few lads have messed me around while some others didn't even have the good grace to reply when approached."
With last season's runaway winners Histon being promoted, Drake expects a number of sides to challenge for the title this time around.
Woodbridge, who were runners-up last term, big-spending Stowmarket, Newmarket and relegated side Mildenhall are all expected to be in contention by the Rovers chief.
But will his own side be among those chasing the title and a possible rise to Step 4? Unsurprisingly - given his current mood - Drake is not convinced.
"Of course promotion is the goal, but I'm not sure we're currently in a position to do that," admitted Drake.
"There are several clubs spending a hell of a lot more than we do and we're going to have to hope that the quality and togetherness pulls us through.
"Despite the issues we've had this summer, we still have an excellent goalkeeper, we are strong defensively, we have plenty of quality in midfield and we have attacking players who can hurt teams.
"We'll do all we can to win the title or finish in the top two, but we have a lot of work to do for that to happen."
Six players have arrived with Ally Conway, Ellis Ogle, Harry McGregor, Jonny Hall, Josh Francis and Reece White joining Rovers, but the same number have departed with Matty Allan, Buster Harradine, Alex Brown, Joe Walker, Russell Bull and Simon Unwin moving on.
Attacking ace Jack Chandler was initially on the exit list as well but he is now back in Rovers colours following an aborted move to St Neots Town.
And the return of a player who has hit 50 goals or the club in the last two seasons does at least provide some cheer for Drake.
"Jack is a good player who creates goals as well as scores them," continued Drake.
"The club and Jack didn't part in the best way at the end of last season, but happily everything has been smoothed over and he has decided to carry on playing his football with us.
"He would have been a massive loss and it's definitely a huge boost to have him back."
Chandler scored twice as Rovers added another trophy to their collection when winning the Mayor's Cup - a piece of pre-season silverware - by beating Huntingdon Town 4-0 on Wednesday night.
New signings Conway and McGregor also found the net in that romp at Jubilee Park and there was a further boost the following morning when the signing of striker James Hall - a prolific player with a number of previous spells at the club - was confirmed.
Rovers' first home league fixture is on Tuesday when they entertain Haverhill Rovers, 7.45pm.