Holwell Sports: Miller eyes list of 20 player targets in bid to climb UCL

Neil Miller (right) and assistant Richard Cragg face a busy close season of recruitment EMN-190320-121651002
Neil Miller (right) and assistant Richard Cragg face a busy close season of recruitment EMN-190320-121651002
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Holwell Sports manager Neil Miller is targeting up to eight players as he looks to strengthen his squad for a push up the United Counties League.

Miller and assistant Richard Cragg took over in late autumn with the club teetering just above the Division One trapdoor, but eventually guided the club towards safety and a second season of UCL football.

The former Cottesmore boss now wants to start afresh and allow the club’s supporters to set their ambitions a little higher.

“I guess it was mission accomplished as far as what we set out to do when we arrived,” he said.

“The aim was UCL survival and then to wipe the slate clean and start again.

“It’s not been easy. We went through a stage of bringing quite a lot of players in, some short-term, some long-term.

“Trying to get them to bed in and gel as a team means we have not anything there that’s been consistent and that’s been the tough part of it.

“When you look at the top six or eight, they consistently pull out the same 16 week-in and week-out and we haven’t been able to do that.”

While Miller hopes to retain the nucleus of his squad, a list of 15 to 20 targets has already been drawn up, with the hopes of adding around half of that number to the Holwell ranks.

He is particularly keen to strengthen the back four having lost both first-choice full-backs to injury and the lure of cash elsewhere.

“David Hazeldine and Josh Clark are midfielders, but have had to play a lot of the time at full-back,” he explained.

“They have not liked it very much, but they understood it needed to be done and got on with it.

“I want to bring in four defensive options, along with a couple of forward options, and whatever we can get in midfield as well.”

While the shopping list is long, Miller knows it won’t be an easy job for a club without a playing budget, an increasing rare feature in step six football.

Instead of money, the Holwell boss will have to trade on the club’s history and reputation, and will be judging new recruits on character as well as ability.

“We have to be careful,” he said. “Having zero budget means we need to find players who are not going to be swayed by anything else and who fit into our ethos.

“I don’t want ifs and buts. I always like players to say ‘I’m in, I’m committed’.

“They are not easy to come by, but we will work our very hardest to find them.

“If we can pull it off I would like to think there are exciting times to come.”

While Miller is a keen disciple of man-management, he is also keen for his players to think for themselves.

“I’m not a guy who stands there and says it’s my way or the highway,” he added.

“The players’ input into a team can be just as influential so they should be able to express themselves in the changing room as well.”

As well as improved depth and quality on the pitch, Miller believes he will also be better prepared come August having been plunged into step six for the first time in mid-season.

“Everything you want to do in pre-season you are having to do 10 to 15 games into the season,” he said.

“I have played at that level, but as a manager you are a little bit rabbit-in-the-headlights for the first few games.

“In the Senior League you get three men and a dog watching; last Monday we had 250 people there, so you have to be a little bit more meticulous in what you are doing when the paying public is coming up to watch you.

“I know the teams now and which players follow which managers so I’ll have more of a gist of who’s who and what’s what.”