New Southam United manager Ian Ray faces a baptism of fire in his first match in charge tomorrow, when his side travels to the Victoria Ground to take on last season’s Midland League Division One runners-up Bromsgrove Sporting, writes David Hucker.
Ray becomes the latest to take over the Saints first team managerial hot-seat following a season of comings and goings that ended with chairman Charles Hill overseeing team affairs for the final four matches. He was voted clubman of the year in 2011/12 and steps up to the role having managed the reserve and youth teams.
Ray will be assisted by players Alex Baird and Matt Omari, together with Andy Williams. In addition, Chris Bower has been appointed strength and conditioning coach.
There has been a wholesale change in the playing squad, with just three retained from last season in Baird, Matt Archer and Luke Sanders. Ray is putting his faith in a number of young players who progressed through the academy and youth teams with him and who are returning to the club.
Defender Paul Holland, who is well-known on the local sporting scene having played for Racing Club Warwick as well as Saints and forward Adam Edwards, who featured briefly for the club in 2010/11, are also returning.
Saints finished last season ten points adrift of Pelsall Villa at the bottom of the table, but were spared relegation when Division Two champions Alvis Sporting failed to gain promotion after their ground fell short of the required standards.
Pre-season results have been mixed, with a home win over FISCC and an away draw at Brinklow cancelled out by defeats at Thame Rangers, FC Stratford, Bishops Itchington and Stockton, where Saints went down 6-2 to their Coventry Alliance neighbours.
Sporting, however, go into the match on a high, having ended Stratford Town’s unbeaten pre-season run with a 2-1 win, following up with another victory by the same margin at Evo-Stik Northern Premier Halesowen Town to complete a 100 per cent record over seven matches.
“This season is about stabilising the club and putting down the foundations for the long term,” said Ray. “It’s going to be a long, tough campaign, but the staff and players are up for the battle.
“Pre-season has gone very much as expected. We have a completely new group of players and it’s going to take time for them to come together. The most important thing for me is that we improve and grow as a team as the season progresses.”
Saints play their first home match on Tuesday when they entertain Cadbury Athletic (7.45pm).
n Racing Club Warwick get their campaign under way at home to Bolehall Swifts tomorrow (3pm).