Ben Barnes is predicting a tough National League west conference opener against Indian Gymkhana at Henry Cort tomorrow (1.30pm).
But Fareham’s new performance director can’t wait to get started.
Barnes has overseen an encouraging pre-season, which climaxed with a narrow 5-4 defeat to premier division runners-up Canterbury on Sunday.
Along with first-team coach Steve Lemon, he has had plenty of selection headaches to wrestle with.
But he is relishing the challenge.
‘The preparation has gone very well,’ said Barnes.
‘The squad have trained very hard and all gave themselves the best chance of being selected.
‘The final selection has been tight but we now have a very good squad to select the match-day 16.
‘It is very hard to leave players out but I am sure they will feature over the next few weeks.
‘We have strength in depth, real quality through the group and an ability to match the better teams.
‘The challenge is going to be doing that week in, week out.’
Former England under-21 international Rob Wilson and overseas players Robin Jones (South Africa) and Paul Nicholls (Australia) are all in the squad for tomorrow’s game.
‘The waiting is over after six weeks of pre-season training,’ added Barnes.
‘Now the serious stuff is finally here and we can look forward to playing some competitive hockey.
‘The squad has been complemented by overseas internationals Paul and Robin and there is real optimism we can be very competitive this season.
‘But Indian Gymkhana will allow us to see where we are and be a very tough match.’
Fareham’s south coast rivals Havant begin their conference west campaign at Team Bath Buccaneers.
The Barncroft Way side lost a clutch of players at the end of last season – but have recruited well, including former Canterbury keeper Ben Cowling.
FAREHAM: Harris, Boyland, Jones, Palmer, Jones, Wilson, Baker, Seager, Boxhall, Hibberd, Nicholls, Davey, Rawlings, Cornish, Rawlings, Potts