‘The players we’ve got, we’re a scalp, we’re going to be everyone’s cup final’ -AFC Portchester boss Dave Carter previews 2021/22 Wessex Premier campaign
Dave Carter assessed his task of trying to become the manager who takes AFC Portchester into the Southern League for the first time and conceded: I’ve put my head on the block.
The former Moneyfields boss swapped the Dover Road hotseat to take charge of the Royals in February.
He has been at the centre of a major player overhaul since arriving at the PMC Stadium as he pursues Wessex League Premier promotion for the second time in his managerial career.
Just as the Royals’ chairman Paul Kelly is hoping for him to do, Carter took Moneys into the Southern League for the first time after finishing second in the 2016-17 campaign.
He knows what a task it will be. And Carter is adamant that it’s sure to be one of the toughest seasons to progress to step 4 football.
He said: ‘It is a pressurised job, myself leaving Moneyfields in the Southern League to come to Portchester, I’ve put my head on the block.
‘I’ve said we can have a right go, it’s a fantastic club off the field.
‘You’ve got everything in place, the chairman is proactive, you’ve got your financial director, a board behind you, 50-odd kids’ teams, there’s an under-23s and under-18s, so everything is set up to be a good club.
‘It’s just about getting it right on the field.
‘It is a tough ask, it’s going to be a hard job. The way things have changed with the Covid situation, it’s going to be one of the hardest leagues to get out of.
‘We’ll have a good go, we want to be right up there, and get as far as we can in the cups and things like that.’
Carter has kept just a few of the Royals squad he inherited - influential midfielder Steve Ramsey and last season’s leading scorer Lee Wort among them - and has signed ex-Gosport and Blackfield striker Liam Robinson from Totton.
The bulk of his new-look squad, though, have followed him from Dover Road - Sam Pearce, Conor Bailey, Tyler Giddings, Curt Da Costa, Kieran Roberts, Joe Briggs, Jake Raine, George Barker, Lewis Fennemore, Marley Ridge and Tom Dinsmore.
All of those were playing at Southern League level with Moneyfields last term - a few have played in the National League and Conference South - yet Carter stressed they will have to adapt their games to acclimatise back to the level below.
He said: ‘When we got out with Moneyfields it was a tough league with us, Blackfield, Portland - there were a few good sides in it.
‘I think this year, I’m hoping we’ll be up and amongst it, but you’ve got Hamworthy who won all but one of their fixtures last season, Horndean are going to be strong, Fareham are always strong, the Christchurch manager (Ollie Cherrett) has gone over to Shaftesbury and they’re recruiting as well.
‘Blackfield & Langley, who we played in that (post-lockdown) Hampshire Cup, they were very good. There’s going to be a lot of teams in and around it this year, it’s going to be a difficult season.
‘At the end of the day, everyone is going for the same. Generally in the Southern League our minimum aim was play-offs so you had to get in the top six. In this league - it’s why it’s so hard to get promoted - you have to win the league.
‘It’s going to be tough because you need so much momentum going into the season and it’s winning ugly because you’re going to get teams who sit in.
‘The players we’ve got, we’re a scalp, we’re going to be everyone’s cup final.
‘Generally, 80 or 90 per cent of the players have played Southern League football in the past two seasons, it’s getting them to gel and play the Wessex way because it’s a different style of football.
‘It’s not all about talent at that level, some of the players are younger and fitter, we’ve got to match the same work rate as others.
‘It’s adapting back to putting the work rate in as well as the ability.’
Portchester’s league campaign starts at Hamble Club on Tuesday.