DARREN Byfield could not hide his excitement ahead of the Southern League Premier Division kick-off, but believes his Redditch United side face a stern examination of their credentials in the opening weeks of the season, writes Liam Moakes.
The Reds face Chesham United on Saturday at Stratford Town in their first ‘home’ match of the season due to the Valley Stadium refurbishment not being completed on schedule, before returning to the DCS Stadium on Tuesday to face Carl Adams’ Stratford in their opening away game.
Then follows a trip to Weymouth before Byfield’s side face Kettering Town in their second ‘home’ fixture of the season at Bedworth United.
“I am tremendously excited about Saturday. I have waited a while for my first league game as a manager and now it’s here both myself and the players are raring to go,” said Byfield.
“I was talking to Clinton (Morrison) the other day and he’s buzzing as well, so we all just want to get cracking now.
“However, I’m under no illusions about what a difficult league this is and what a challenging start to the season we have.
“Chesham are a good, well organised side and then we travel to face a Stratford side who have been in red hot form in pre-season and look to have put together a really useful team.
“Weymouth and Kettering were promotion challengers last season too so it’s a tough start.
“These first few games will tell me a lot about the squad I have put together. It won’t tell me how the season is going to go, but it will tell me plenty about the mentality of the players.”
Byfield, who this week appointed former Bromsgrove Sporting forward Delton Francis as his assistant following Kyle Patterson’s decision to stand down due to personal reasons, believes his side will not be found wanting in terms of effort and desire.
“We’ve brought some talented players in this pre-season but of course there’s been a big overhaul since the end of last season and it’s difficult to make predictions,” said Byfield.
“What I will say is the lads have shown a tremendous appetite and workrate in training and have taken on board things we’ve been asking of them.
“I sealed a deal for (midfielder) Liam Spink the other day and he’s been superb since he came in, which epitomises everyone really.”
Meanwhile, Byfield yesterday (Thursday) boosted his attacking options by adding forward Jazz Luckie to the ranks.
Former Alvechurch attacker Luckie was an important part of the Reds squad which finished runners-up last season under Liam McDonald and Byfield believes Luckie’s pace and strength will add an extra dimension to United’s play.
Luckie’s arrival follows this week’s release of Jamie Spencer – who has signed for Midland League Premier Division promotion hopefuls Avechurch – and means the Reds’ forward ranks consist of Luckie, Morrison, Jason Cowley and Danico Johnson.
“It’s a shame for Jamie that things didn’t work out,” added Byfield, who has opted against signing pre-season striker trialist Jake Healey.
“There’s no hard feelings at all and I wish Jamie well moving forward. It just became clear that he didn’t suit our style of play. His attitude was spot on and I have no problems with Jamie whatsoever.”