Holwell Sports season preview: New boss sets the bar high

New Holwell Sports manager John Webster directs training EMN-160728-150915002
New Holwell Sports manager John Webster directs training EMN-160728-150915002

Pre-season has exceeded John Webster’s cautious expectations as he prepares to make his league debut in the Holwell Sports dugout on Saturday.

Webster admits he was stepping into the unknown when he took over in June following the resignation of long-serving boss Simon Daws.

Webster's first competitive game in charge is against Radcliffe Olympic on August 6 as Holwell begin their East Midlands Counties League campaign EMN-160728-150858002

Webster's first competitive game in charge is against Radcliffe Olympic on August 6 as Holwell begin their East Midlands Counties League campaign EMN-160728-150858002

But after two wins from three friendlies and with a sprinkling of new faces to add to some returning familiar ones, the 34-year-old insists his side are ready for curtain up.

Holwell open against Notts side Radcliffe Olympic at home on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

“It has gone better than I thought it would if I’m honest,” he said.

“I wasn’t afraid of the challenge, but I have come out of my comfort zone to an area where I didn’t really know the players.

“Since I got the job it hasn’t just been Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, it has been more like Monday to Saturday, but I’m football through and through so I enjoy it.

“We have got 20 players signed on for the first team and we’ve delivered what we said in trying to get the local lads in.

“I’m reasonably happy with the 20 we have and would like to think it’s an improvement on last season, but we are still trying to attract one or two more.”

Key players have re-signed for the season, such as top scorer Graham Wells and playmaker Michael Stevenson.

Some important names have also returned including former skipper and centre-half Aaron Ridout and 2014/15 player of the season Chris Hibbitt. Both left for higher league Kirby Muxloe early last season.

Kieran Foster, who can play full-back or on the wing, has come back after a brief stint with Melton Mowbray, as has striker David Hazeldine.

The forward line has been further bolstered by the return of Mark Tinsley from Senior League side Sileby Town, while new signings include goalkeeper Jamie Witham and midfielder Andre Fontoura who arrives from Cottesmore Amateurs.

Webster added: “Andre has been one of Cottesmore’s best players for the last three seasons. He is very pacy and hard-working and looks like a very good signing.

“When you look at young players such as Tom Harris and Colton Cropper in training you can see they are good enough, they just need coaching and looking after. The side looks very pacy.”

Alongside the new management team, Holwell have also looked to adopt a fresh approach to recruitment through the local junior football ranks.

A third ‘development’ team will play in the North Leicestershire League, giving youngsters experience of senior Saturday football.

“We have got lads from Mowbray Rangers who stop playing junior football, but it’s too much to chuck them into first or second team football at 16,” Webster said.

“We are trying to bridge that gap to let them learn senior football, but in a slightly less competitive league.

“A lot of these lads are going to train with the first and second teams.”

Webster, who won back-to-back Senior League titles with Rothley, will be without Hibbitt, Foster and Tinsley for Saturday’s opener, but goes into the campaign confident in his squad.

Tonight (Thursday) he will sit down with his team to discuss their season objectives.

“In my own head I would love to win it, but I have to bring myself back down to earth. We have to be realistic; we are a club that doesn’t pay. “If we finish in the top 10 or top eight and get back in the FA Cup I would consider that a good season, but you can be sure me and the players will be pushing for more.”