MICHAEL HERBERT says avoiding relegation from the Hellenic Premier Division with Woodley United would be “an amazing achievement”.
The Kestrels are set to embark on their first season at that level after promotion from Hellenic Division One East.
And Herbert, who only took over as manager last summer, says nobody expects his side to stay up.
“We’re probably going to be favourites to go down and favourites to finish bottom with no budget,” he told The Wokingham Paper.
“We’re obviously a really small club at that level.
“17th would be an amazing achievement. That will be the main aim and obviously anything above that would be really, really good.”
Woodley returned to pre-season before any other team in the area and played their fourth friendly on Saturday, winning 2-1 at Fleet Spurs thanks to a brace of Charlie Oakley headers.
And Herbert says it was essential to get the players back to training earlier than the rest.
“We know what a tough season it’s going to be,” said the manager.
“I think the real difference we find between the Hellenic One and Hellenic Premier is probably the fitness and the strength of the players.
“We want to make sure that we’re really, really fit and that we can go from minute one to 95, so that’s why we came back in early.”
They have been joined by fellow new arrivals Ashley Ledger, from Stoneham, and Maidenhead United youngster Nathanael Robinson, while the majority of last season’s squad have again signed on for the new campaign.
And Herbert says the club decided against signing some more established names.
“We had the option of signing what we’d call star players from the Hellenic Premier, but we want players that are going to be hungry and want to be here every week and fight,” he said.
“We know it’s going to be a really difficult season so we think we’ve added the right players to the group in terms of team spirit as well.
“Everybody when they play for us has to work really, really hard and we’ve brought in players that are going to do that.”
It was far from a vintage display by Woodley at Fleet’s Kennels Lane. The Kestrels fell behind to the Combined Counties side after an early penalty.
Oakley was wasteful in front of goal and the visitors had Alex Reed to thanks for a couple of vital saves to keep the score down to 1-0.
Hinds and Oakley both struck the post in an improved second half display before the latter equalised, diverting Porter’s header from a corner into the net.
And after Fleet’s forward missed a sitter with two minutes to play, Oakley popped up again to head in a last minute winner.
“It’s probably one of the worst we’ve played since I’ve taken over,” admitted Herbert.
“We didn’t play very well at all. The pitch didn’t really suit us but we managed to grind it out, which I guess is a good quality to have, not playing well and managing to nick a win in the end.
“It’s better to have those performances now than in the season, so we’ll take that.”