The new-look Hornets get their preparations for the 2015/16 Southern Combination Football League underway tomorrow with a visit to Sporting Club Thamesmead, and a meeting with Ryman League newcomers Phoenix Sports.
The Sports will be playing at their highest ever level next season, having won the Southern Counties East Football League in April, and are expected to give Horsham a stern test in their first run-out of the summer. But Dom Di Paola has asked supporters to pay little attention to the result, win, lose or draw. “I’ve got no interest in the result at all,” he insisted.”If we do well then great, if not then we won’t worry about it because at the moment these games are really an extension of training for us. It will be an interesting one for me because at every other club I’ve managed we haven’t had any supporters at these games at all so I just hope the fans will understand that, until the season starts, the results aren’t going to be the main concern. The year we won the League at East Preston we lost something like 7-0 to the Hampshire champions and 5-0 to Burgess Hill in pre-season so results at this stage don’t mean a great deal just as long as we show an improvement in every game so we can go in to the start of the season in confident mood.”
The match is the first in a busy set of fixtures as Di Paola prepares for his first full season in charge, with matches at Oakwood and a triangular tournament with Worthing and Burgess Hill to follow next week, followed by a further four games ahead of the August 8th start and the manager has vowed to give each of his squad ample opportunity to show what they can do. “It’s a very early start for us. We’ve not been back long and some clubs aren’t even starting their programme yet but we’ve got seven games – eight if you think of the double-header at Worthing – so that’s a lot to pack in. We’ve got a few things that we want to try and work on and, although we’ll be without a few players for this one, it’ll give the squad a chance to bond and to get to know each other a bit more. At this time of year managers at this level need some degree of patience because we don’t really have a hold over the players. They’re not on big money so some of them might be unavailable for some games due to holiday or weddings or whatever but it’s always like that. Ash Jones, Mark Knee, Evan Archibald and Kieron Pamment will all be missing tomorrow but we’ll have a squad of fifteen or sixteen so we won’t be short although it’ll be a bit ‘mix and match’ with a couple of the youth lads we want to take a look at, and maybe one or two trialists.
Phoenix Sports are a seriously good side, and they have already got a game under their belts in beating Lordswood last Saturday, so it will be hard for us but what I’ll be looking at is our fitness level and whether we’re able to take stuff we’ve been working on into the match. The lads have looked very fit in training but if we find that we’re out on our feet after an hour or so then we know we have to step up the fitness at the next few sessions. If we’re okay on that front, but things aren’t working out how we want them to in turns of our shape, then we’ll need to concentrate on that and that’s pretty much how well be approaching all our pre-season games. We will be rotating the squad over the next few weeks and our aim is to give everyone half an hour or an hour because we’re nowhere near knowing what our first choice eleven will be yet and, although we don’t know the strength of the sides our opponents will be putting out, tomorrow should at least give us a good gauge of where we are at.”
Kick-off for this match is 1pm.
Venue: Sporting Club Thamesmead, Bayliss Avenue, London SE28 8NJ