Leiston manager Mark Morsley (ex-AFC Sudbury) admits he is “so excited” as his side prepare to play their first-ever match in the Ryman League Premier Division tomorrow.
Leiston, who won the Division One North title at the first attempt last season, start life in the top tier at home to Cray Wanderers, after a morale-boosting 4-2 win at last season’s Premier Division champions Billericay last Saturday.
Morsley said: “I am so excited about this season. It is the level I have wanted to work at for several years, after twice coming close when I was at AFC Sudbury.
“It is going to be a real challenge, but we have had a good pre-season and I am very positive about my team.
“I don’t think Leiston have ever played Cray before, but they are an established mid-table Ryman Premier Division side.
“It could have been a worse start for us than to be at home, although we then face Canvey Island and Wealdstone away.”
Unusually for a side that has won back-to-back promotions it has been a busy summer in terms of comings and goings at Victory Road.
Seven of last season’s squad – defenders Mark Goldfinch, Blake Saker, Shane Wardley (ex-AFC Sudbury) and Jemel Fox (ex-AFC Sudbury) midfielders Michael Brothers and Neil Calver (both ex-AFC Sudbury) and striker Danny Smy – have all left.
They have been replaced by defenders Seb Dunbar and Tom Wray, midfielders Rhys Darg and Danny Thrower and strikers Ollie Mann and Jordan Heath.
Fox was only on a short-term contract until the end of the season and Leiston were keen to keep him until former Ipswich Town player Dunbar became available.
Morsley said: “Of the rest Danny Smy was the only one who figured regularly in the run-in at the end of last season.
“Apart from Smy, who is a postman and left because a change in his work circumstances meant he could not commit to the travelling, the other five I suppose we felt were not going to take us to where we want to be.
“As a manager you get feelings about a player, about his ability or attitude, and if you don’t act on it you are not doing your job. It is easier to go with the same side and give players the benefit of the doubt.
“But what happens if the season then goes badly and you know you were not convinced about those players before it started? I have never been frightened to make those difficult decisions, and so far in my managerial career I think I have done okay.
“It is a case of like-for-like replacements for some of them, but we wanted to bring in younger players such as Seb Dunbar, Ollie Mann and Jordan Heath who we feel can take us forward at this level.”
Morsley added: “This is the finest group of players I have ever worked with. Steve Foley (Leiston’s new coach) has been very impressed with how good the players are.”
With thanks to www.greenun.co.uk