It’s not often you hear a football coach say that results don’t matter but that’s the view of Mark Hawthorne, who is busy recruiting his young squad ahead of the new Bluefin Isthmian Development League campaign. A former Horsham Player of the Season, Mark is now in charge of the club’s reformed U23s and sees his task as one of player development above results. “Ultimately we’re here to help out the first team by working to develop and improve players and, hopefully, help them make that step up to senior football” said the ex-Torquay United man, who captained the Hornets to their only previous promotion to the Premier Division before Jack Brivio repeated the feat back in May.

“Although we’ll be playing in the competitive Bluefin Development League, we’re not really going to be results-based” he continued. “Players won’t be paid but what we will offer is good coaching and assist them in learning the game. If they have the potential to play senior football then we will do our best to help them achieve that.

We started the summer with no players at all so we had to start from scratch and have been doing a big job on the recruitment side of things recently. We’ve currently got a squad of 16 players, including trialists, but are still in the process of looking for players so if anyone is interested in what we have to offer then I would encourage them to get in touch. We’ve recruited from all over with some coming up from the coast, some from London, and of course a good number of local players. The majority of them are 18-20 years old but I’m also looking at players above and below that age group. If they’re 16 or 17 and good enough then we’ll get them involved. If we think they have what it takes, and would benefit from being with us, then we will give them that opportunity.

The door’s open for any player under 23 and we also hope to offer game time to those first teamers who aren’t perhaps getting the minutes they might like, as well as providing the platform for any senior players who might be working their way back to fitness. Depending on their age, the time we’ll need with the players is variable; it might be a few months, it might be a couple of years, but if they’ve improved significantly as footballers by the end of their time with the U23s then we will have done our job.

There are lots of layers to what we are aiming to do but helping Dom is the priority. The first team is in excellent hands with him, Adam, and Jimmy, but if we can provide them with any assistance then we will. I have a great team working with me, with Sam Jones and Ross Butterfill combining their roles with the youth by helping me with the coaching and they’ve been brilliant. I’m really looking forward to working with them a lot more over the course of the season and Shaun Scott has been great with looking after all the admin. He’s been handling the registrations and is really switched on, which is a great relief to know I don’t need to worry about that side of things so I can focus my time on developing the players.

We’ve had a few obstacles to deal with, predicted ones, but it’s a real positive to be back in the town. I’ve lived in Horsham most of my life and its lovely to have the club back where it belongs. The new ground and facilities are superb. We train on Tuesdays and Thursdays and started our sessions just under two weeks ago, so its early days yet, but its all good. We’ve got our first friendly next week, at Loxwood, and have a few more lined up before the season starts in September so hopefully we should be in good shape by then.”

Last season’s attempts to enter the Development League were reluctantly aborted just a two months into the season, as the club struggled in the face of regular player and pitch unavailability and a plethora of logistically difficult lengthy midweek away trips. But with just ten clubs making up the constitution of next season’s southern division and the likes of Margate, Herne Bay, Cray Wanderers and Lewes no longer on the fixture list, the schedule appears less exhausting while the completion of the club’s new Camping World Community Stadium provides a welcome continuity to home matches.

The Hornets kick-off the season on Wednesday 4th September with an away trip to Three Bridges before hosting Tooting & Mitcham United the following Tuesday.

A full list of fixtures, including the forthcoming friendlies, can be found here

Admission to the U23s home matches is £4 adults and £2 cons. Matches will be played on Tuesday nights, kick-off 7.45pm.

Anyone interested in playing for the Hornets’ U23s should contact Mark Hawthorne on 07973 868216 or email m.hawthorne200@icloud.com

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