ALVECHURCH will need to develop a greater togetherness to become contenders in the debut season in the Northern Premier League South, manager Ian Long has warned.
Having completed a record-breaking treble last season, the promoted Church begin their first season in Step Four tomorrow (Saturday) when they welcome Leek Town to Lye Meadow.
While Long insists there is no pressure on the league newcomers, he feels they have the quality to impress but they will also need to show their mental strength.
The past two seasons have brought success after success and Long – and many of his squad – experienced a campaign to remember at this level with Tividale, finishing eighth.
Long believes Alvechurch can repeat those exploits, and there is an extra incentive this season with three promotion places being up for grabs with a new Midland structure being introduced next term.
“I think the squad I’ve got ability wise is better than when I was at Tividale but I don’t think we’ve got that togetherness yet,” said Long.
“We’ve been used to having our way in the past few seasons, we’ve been used to winning and there will be times this season when things go against us.
“It’s going to be a step up, playing bigger and stronger clubs. We’ve got to be together to cope. We need that team spirit and work ethic.”
Alvechurch have added to their squad with seven new signings, though summer recruit Kyle Brady has already departed.
Travelling from Penkridge has proved problematic, especially with the M5 roadworks and the former Rushall and AFC Wulfs forward is being linked with Sporting Khalsa.
Luke Keen, Yusufi Ceesay and Luke Yates will add extra firepower, with Javia Roberts providing width and trickery, while Ash Carter had already impressed in defence.
Long believes Alvechurch can compete in the new level but he says there is no particular pressure.
“There’s no pressure, the chairman (Richard Thorndike) has said it’s about consolidation after coming into a new league,” said Long.
“But we put pressure on ourselves. It would be great to be promoted. I think it would a good season if we can make the play-offs. Promotion would be the dream.
“It’s going to be a tough task- I think the extra promotion place up for grabs means clubs will be going for it. It’s going to be a more competitive league.
“Leek will one of the teams up there, I expect them to be strong, along with Corby and Basford. They’ll be the ones to beat.”
After injuries interrupted Alvechurch’s pre-season, Long will be able to call on Dave Bellis and Ceesey against Leek, while midfielder Jack Cresswell and defender Andy Parsons came through their first 90 minutes of friendly action in last week’s 3-1 defeat to Redditch United.
Ryan Winwood, however, will not play again until Christmas after he underwent his shoulder operation on Tuesday.
He was hurt at the end of the season against Coleshill and has been awaiting surgery.