MANAGER Keith Draper believes his Studley side are well equipped to challenge at the right end of Midland League Division One this season after making some excellent pre-season acquisitions.
Draper and a new-look managerial team arrived midway through the last campaign and, aided by some excellent work in the transfer market, turned the Bees turning from apparent relegation certainties into a strong side as they beat the drop and also won the Birmingham Midweek Floodlit Cup.
Draper, who was named divisional manager of the month in February, is determined not to waste the foundations set in place since Christmas and has been busily recruiting to strengthen the ranks at the Beehive.
He has swooped to sign goalkeeper Ryan Young from Redditch Borough, versatile Lewis Clarke from Cradley Town, striker Andy Nicol from Bromsgrove Sporting, right-sided player Lucky Nwosu, who can also play centre back, from Racing Club Warwick and left back Aaron Xavier from Littleton.
Draper is also hopeful of adding Bromsgrove Sporting duo Will Tibbetts and Tom Craine, although he faces competition from other clubs.
On the downside, left back Jake Wicketts injured his cruciate ligament and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines and midfielder Jack McGinn has broken his metatarsal and will be out until around October.
“I’m delighted with the players we’ve managed to bring in this summer so far and am hopeful of adding a few more,” said Draper.
“All credit to the boys who did so well for me in the second half of last season and many will be here this season, but we can’t stand still. We need competition for places and I’ve got 24 or 25 at training. This is a great catchment area really.
“I am only interested in bringing in players of a certain character. I want dressing room harmony, which played a key role for us last season. There’s been the chance of signing players who definitely have the ability to do well at this level, but they wanted to come for the wrong reasons.
“Ultimately, we were the third best team in the second half of the last campaign so, with new arrivals too, I would be very hopeful of us being in and around the top five.
“There’s a real incentive to finish in the top five, because it would mean a lot to me to qualify for the following season’s FA Cup.”
Draper, whose players are being put through their paces in fitness sessions led by former footballer Jason Ramsay, added: “The lads and the management just can’t wait to get going now. The FA Vase draw is made on Friday which is exciting and we’re looking in good shape ahead of Saturday’s friendly at Long Buckby.
“It’s going to be a challenging season. Walsall Wood are throwing a phenomenal amount of money at winning promotion, but we know money doesn’t guarantee you success and there is always a surprise package or two.”
The Bees continue their pre-season campaign at home to Boldmere St Michaels on July 13, before hosting Alvechurch on July 22.
Then follows trips to Cradley Town on July 25, Fairfield Villa on July 29 and Northfield Town on August 2.