LEE BRADBURY demanded his Hawks players make the most of their pre-season ahead of the new Vanarama National League South campaign.
The Westleigh Park side successfully reached the play-offs last season, before being knocked out by Boreham Wood, and Bradbury intends to mastermind a repeat performance or better.
With the new teams coming in I think it is going to be harder than it has ever beenLee Bradbury
He knows, however, that it won’t be easy and is predicting a more competitive league than ever before.
‘With the new teams coming in I think it is going to be harder than it has ever been,’ said Bradbury.
‘It is important that we get pre-season right so that we can make a good start.
‘I think we have got a good blend of friendlies that will enable us to do that.
‘It is a time when we can try a number of different formations and give the new players a chance to fit in.’
Preparations for the Hawks’ new campaign have been finalised, with a busy eight-game programme of friendlies announced.
Apart from their prestigious fixture against Pompey, the Hawks will take on two local Wessex League sides.
On top of that there are two Southern League opponents, two from the Vanarama National, and one from the Ryman League.
Lee Bradbury’s team make their traditional bow when they send a squad XI to Wessex League Horndean’s Five Heads Park on Monday, July 6 (7.45pm).
On the following Saturday, Pompey visit Westleigh Park (3pm),
And with the Blues expecting a shake-up under new boss Paul Cook, a bumper crowd is expected to come along.
The other local games are at AFC Portchester on Tuesday, July 21 (7.45pm) and at home against Bognor on Wednesday, July 29 July (7.45pm).
Bradbury will expect two of the biggest tests to come from the Vanarama National visitors to Westleigh Park.
Local rivals Eastleigh visit on Saturday, July 18 (3pm) – and the week before the league campaign starts Dover Athletic make the journey along the south coast.
Games against Southern League opposition, Swindon Supermarine away on Tuesday, July 14 (7.45pm) and Petersfield Town at home on Friday, July 14 complete the hectic pre-season programme.
Bradbury will be keen to avoid a repeat of last season’s friendly at Hungerford Town when he ended up taking his players off the pitch.
‘We want the games to be competitive but not over the top,’ added Bradbury.
‘At Hungerford, Ed Harris got an elbow across the face and we thought it was deliberate.
‘It left a bad taste and that is something we don’t want happening again.’