‘We’ve got a squad capable of beating anyone on the day’ – Fareham Town boss Pete Stiles ahead of new Wessex League Premier season
Manager Pete Stiles reckons Fareham Town are more than capable of mounting a Wessex League Premier Division title challenge this term.
But the Reds’ boss stressed his side will have their work cut out competing with some of the clubs with greater squad depth than themselves..
Fareham were flying high in the Wessex Premier when the previous campaign was brought to a premature end because of the pandemic.
They had lost just one of their opening 11 league fixtures and were sitting fourth, while they also reached the third round of the FA Vase - the joint furthest the club had ever been in the competition - prior to a post-lockdown defeat at Plymouth Parkway.
Although Stiles has lost Archie Willcox (AFC Portchester), Brendan Galloway (AFC Stoneham) and George Davis (retired) from last season’s squad, the Reds’ boss is pleased with his recruitment.
Fareham have attracted former Southampton under-18s and under-23s captain Ben Rowthorn, Dave Parker, Dan Bennett and Hawks loanee Lawson Bright.
Stiles feels those additions, added to what he’s been able to keep at Cams Alders, are capable of putting the Reds in contention at the top of the Wessex Premier.
He said: ‘We’ve got a squad capable of beating anyone on the day. It’s the strength of squad throughout which is the important thing.
‘Clubs with the bigger budgets can keep more players there because they’re paying them and they can have bigger squads.
‘We’ve shown before we can go quite a long way, I think there are going to be some really good sides in there this year. Mostly everyone - certainly locally - seems to have strengthened and a lot of them have done well in their pre-seasons.
‘You know what it’s like, sometimes you can have a great pre-season then it comes off the rails as soon as you start.
‘You get a couple of key injuries and stuff like that, but would I expect us to be up there competing? Yeah.’
Stiles says he’ll still remain active in the market even after the season is underway.
He conceded clubs like Fareham sometimes have to wait until players grow disillusioned over game-time elsewhere and then they can make their move.
Stiles remarked: ‘We’ve had half a dozen signings but probably four of them we’ll be looking to play on a fairly regular basis.
‘We’ve lost a couple but hopefully we’ll be as strong, if not stronger, than last season.
‘The nucleus is still there.
‘We’re still a club who need to attract players rather than trying to attract them with big bucks. We have to see, in some cases, who’s surplus to requirements or be very lucky that people just want to join us.’
Fareham start the 2021-22 season with three successive home fixtures, with an FA Cup extra preliminary round tie against Fleet sandwiched in between a league opener against Baffins on Tuesday (August 3) and the visit of Bashley.
The Reds then make the short trip to AFC Portchester for an ‘El Creekio’ derby in their first away game of the campaign - and Stiles is keen for his squad to chalk up a first victory as quickly as possible.
He said: ‘It’s always important to get off to a strong start and the thing is we go into a league game, then we’ve got the FA Cup, then you’ve got a derby against AFC Portchester.
‘I’m not saying it defines your season, but it really helps if you get off to a flyer because everyone wants to be training, everyone wants to be in your squad - you get a couple of beatings and some people can get deflated.
‘I know the character in a lot of them and it’s just nice to start.
‘You always look for your first win, once you’ve got that first win - you can’t relax - but it comes easier.’