THE HAWKS are aware they will be the team to beat this season ahead of tomorrow’s Ryman League premier division opener at Leiston (3pm).
Manager Lee Bradbury is determined to lead the Westleigh Park side back to National League South after relegation last term.
But he is expecting his side to be regarded as the big hitters in the division by opposition teams.
He said: ‘This league is new to us and as favourites the other teams are going to view us as a prize scalp.
‘We have to be prepared to deal with that.
‘There are only three players in our squad – Jason Prior, Alfie Rutherford and Ryan Woodford – who have any experience of Ryman League premier division football.
‘From what I do know our opponents will tend to be big, strong, hard working and difficult to break down.
‘Once we match them in those areas I know we have the players to make things happen.
‘After last season we have changed our approach, including younger local players who are hungry for success.
‘They are players who want to progress and are at the club for all the right reasons.
‘We all have to go out there, take responsibility, and prove ourselves.’
Bradbury has signed Prior and Rutherford, who scored 69 goals between them in this league for Bognor.
The Hawks boss has also recruited defenders Ryan Woodford and Rory Williams, from Gosport.
Former Pompey youngster Bradley Tarbuck is another new face with Theo Lewis signing a permanent deal after a successful loan spell at Westleigh Park last season.
All the new boys are likely to play some part in the opener in Suffolk.
However, injured defender Ed Harris, who missed all last season, and injured midfielder Wes Fogden may not be ready to play quite yet.
‘Our club is very much geared towards being a good National League South team,’ said Bradbury.
‘That is where we are aiming to get back to.
‘I don’t expect it to be easy but we have to give it everything we have got.
‘We have had a good pre-season but now we start for real.’