STUDLEY boss Keith Draper may be a self-confessed Bromsgrove Sporting fan – but he is determined to play the role of party-pooper at the Victoria Ground on Saturday.
The Rouslers, who reached the FA Vase semi-finals, are unbeaten in the league this season and will clinch the Midland League Division One title and promotion with victory over the Bees.
However, Draper is in no mood to his side roll over and believes Studley are perfectly capable of giving the hosts a run for their money – or better.
The Bees have every incentive of their own as, with four matches remaining, they sit four points and four places above the drop zone and know another victory may be needed to ensure survival.
Of Studley’s remaining fixtures, Saturday’s looks the least likely to yield that win, but Draper has been involved in football long enough to know it can throw up plenty of surprises, especially at this stage of the season.
“I’m a Bromsgrove fan and have been for a long time,” said Draper. “Everyone knows that. I spent 13 great years with Bromsgrove Rovers and five with Sporting and I’ve known Smudger (Sporting manager Paul Smith) for a long, long time.
“Lots of the Sporting lads have played for me and five or six of our boys have played for Sporting, so there’s plenty of connections between the sides.
“I have got nothing but fond memories of Bromsgrove and it will be a great occasion on Saturday but, make no mistake, my priority is Studley FC and getting a result.
“If they beat us and win the league, fair play to them, but we are pretty much at full strength and will be going there to have a right good go at them.
“I know the side I’ll be picking and we will set our stall out to play a specific way. We’ve been on a great run to give ourselves a great chance of staying up, but we were poor last time out against Uttoxeter and are looking to bounce back.”
Draper, who was youth and then reserve team manager at Rovers during Jimmy Mullen’s reign as first team boss, then enjoyed a successful stint as Sporting boss which included a promotion-winning campaign.
However, whilst he is delighted to see his old side flourishing, his objective is to lead the Bees to safety.
“I can’t believe, given the run we’ve been on and including being team of the month for March, that 35 points from 34 games hasn’t got us safe yet,” added Draper.
“Pelsall’s win at the weekend has made it nervy again but we are confident of getting the job done.
“We have a huge game at home to Chelmsley Town on Monday (3pm) and the hope is to be safe by 5pm on Monday.
“Then we have a Worcester Royal Infirmary Cup final against Littleton (at Littleton, April 26, 7.45pm) to look forward to and also the Birmingham Midweek Floodlit Cup final against Coventry Copsewood (at Leamington, May 2, 7.30pm) on the horizon.
“It’s a massive month or so coming up for Studley and I want the lads to enjoy. Some of them may never again play in front of a crowd the size they will play in front of on Saturday, so it’s very exciting.”
Draper has everyone available for selection, other than striker Gaz Evans. Talented keeper Brad Carter, on loan from Premier Division champions-elect Alvechurch, is set to feature after shelving holiday plans.