DAN BATEMAN believes playing on the artificial surface at Larges Lane this season will boost Wokingham and Emmbrook’s chances of promotion.
Sumas agreed a groundshare deal with Bracknell Town earlier this month, allowing them to remain at step six while work is completed at Lowther Road ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.
And while Bateman admits it would be better to still be playing in the borough, he says sharing with the Robins will provide plenty of benefits.
“We’re a young footballing side,” the Sumas boss told The Wokingham Paper.
“We really struggle to go away to places where the surface is difficult. We know that we’re going to be playing on a 3G surface and that will really suit our passing game and we’ll be able to use that.
“That is something that we can look to work on and we can try and get some more high tempo into our play.
“Then we need to work on going away to difficult places and getting results and that’s going to be an area we need to improve on from last year.”
He added: “It is a blow (to leave Wokingham), but it’s not because we’ve got an end game this time.
“Before when we’ve been forced to go and groundshare elsewhere, there’s been no light at the end of the tunnel whereas everything is full steam ahead with the floodlights and the stands so we know that we will be back at Lowther Road next year with a step five facility.
“Ideally we’d be at Lowther Road, but it’s not worked out. But playing at Bracknell is a fantastic opportunity.
“Bracknell made all the right moves last year. They really are the club on the up in the area and we might be able to learn something from them over the course of the next year while we’re groundsharing in close proximity.”
Wokingham and Emmbrook returned for pre-season last week and won their first friendly away at Combined Counties League side Ash United on Saturday 3-1 thanks to goals from Josh Harris, Charlie Thorne and Connor Holland.
Many of Sumas’ Hellenic League rivals do not start their pre-season campaigns until this weekend, but Bateman
says he has taken a different approach.
“I wanted to try and get more friendlies in this year,” he said.
“Last year we had five friendlies and when you’re trying to manage a squad of 18-20, trying to get them all football is difficult.
“I think we’ve got seven friendlies now and I’m still looking at potentially another one so it’s more games to be able to give more game time. Hopefully it will pay dividends come the start of the season.”
With facilities being brought up to scratch at Lowther Road, ambitions remain to return to the Hellenic Premier Division as soon as possible.
But Bateman, who admits he was disappointed with a sixth-placed finish last season, insists that promotion this time around will not be easy.
“It’s going to be a tough league this year without a shadow of a doubt,” he said.
“What the FA have done by increasing the standard of facilities is it also increases the standard of the teams as well.
“There’s teams like Burnham and Abingdon that have been busy on Twitter saying how they’re pushing on and I’d expect them to be really strong.
“I’ve said to my lads from the start of last season, promotion is our aim but do not think in any circumstances that it’s going to be easy.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge.
“We need to make sure we start well and we need to make sure we get a more settled and consistent side. Last year availability affected us too much.”
He added: “I think certainly the Bracknell situation has helped because players want to play football at that facility because it’s nice.
“I’ve spoken to all of the existing squad from last year and I’m not expecting to lose anybody.
“Everybody has had offers from everybody else but they’re all saying that they’re committed to me and also I’ve had 10-12 lads on the phone that want to come across and try.
“The squad is looking really healthy at the moment.
“We’re going to have good numbers at pre-season and there’s nobody within any of our squads that’s guaranteed a place, it’s done purely on how they perform.
“So get the shirt and keep it and then by doing that, hopefully it means that the availability issue will go away because people will think I can’t go away because I might lose my spot and might not get it back for four or six weeks.
“That’s the ethos we need to get in the club.”