Cottesmore AFC start their new Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division campaign
Cottesmore boss Rich Giblin is targeting another season of progression as his side kick-off their Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division campaign this weekend.
Giblin guided the Westray Park outfit to a seventh place finish last season – their highest Premier Division placing for more than 20 years.
And, ahead of Saturday’s opening clash at Barlestone St Giles, he wants to maintain the momentum in a campaign which will see Cottesmore play in the FA Vase for the first time in their history.
He said: “Our long-term aim is to be in a position where we can challenge to go up.
"We want to finish higher than last season and then we will wait and see what affect the restructuring higher up has on us.
“We have entered the FA Vase this season because it shows we want to keep pushing the club forward.
“Prior to last season, we had always been a middle or bottom half team for a long time. We improved on that last season so we need to keep pushing on.”
Cottesmore have managed to retain the majority of last season’s squad which was Giblin’s main aim having ended the campaign on a 15-match unbeaten league run which was followed by victory in the Ancaster Cup final.
Top scorer Tom Pope and skipper Jordan Smith have both rejected higher level offers to stay at Westray Park with the only departures seeing two players move on to step four clubs.
Aaron Hart has returned to Wisbech Town while defender Ben Richards will also be playing in the BetVictor Northern Premier League South East Division next season after joining Spalding United.
Giblin said: “We were a bit different to many clubs who have been looking to sign new players in that keeping those from last season was our main target.
“We wanted to keep hold of everybody from last season and we've more or less managed to do that.
“We always knew Aaron would move back to a higher level while going to Spalding is a great move for Ben.
"We've had a few discussions with players from outside the club, but when clubs higher up are offering money it makes it all the more difficult for us.”
Cottesmore will welcome back Andre Fontoura, who missed most of last season through injury, while Shaun Dennigan is available again after work commitments curtailed his involvement last term.
Matty Green is also back in the area again after a forces posting to Nigeria towards the end of last season.
Cottesmore have also boosted their coaching team with the addition of Bruce Poynter who was with Bourne Town last season while Darren Wilke will combine his playing role by helping the management team.
Giblin added: “We're in better shape fitness-wise than this time last year through the work that Bruce has done with the lads.
“We had a good back end to last season, but we had a pretty poor start and we were on the back foot repairing that.
"We know it is not going to be easy, but hopefully we can get a decent start and then see where we are.
"Pre-season is always a necessary evil. It has to be done, but it's been very disrupted by unavailabilities like a lot of teams.
"It hasn't been brilliant, but that's not the end of the world. We've won a couple of games but also lost a couple.
"It's been a mixed bag really. We've played quite well in some games and played badly in others.”
Availability issues will also affect Cottesmore for their opening match at Barlestone who finished in fifth place last season.
Danny Seals, skipper Smith, Fontoura, Harry Stannnard, Harry Sabberton, Jake Robson and Dennigan are among those missing for the trip to Barlestone who beat Cottesmore 2-0 on home soil last season after the Rutland side had run out 3-0 winners in the clash at Westray Park.
Cottesmore’s newly-named Development side also open their Division Two campaign on Saturday with a home clash against league newcomers Newbold Vernon.
They have been boosted by the summer acquisition of experienced former Oakham United player Will Lee as well as forces duo Sam Rogers and Harry Greenshields who have been posted back to the area.