Russ Eagle expects Handsworth to have a much stronger season in the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division.
Handsworth, who are now back ‘home’ at Olivers’ Mount, went through a transition period last season as Eagle blooded nearly a whole team of young players who now are going into a second campaign with a year’s experience.
Results were indifferent throughout and Handsworth were 15th when the campaign was expunged. But with the 2020/21 season upon us, Eagle is a confident man.
“We want to put up a fight this year because we’ve had a year at it with the younger lads and I fancy us for a good top half finish, maybe even top eight,” Eagle told Non League Yorkshire.
“I want to go for it. But the league this year is without a shadow of doubt as strong as it has ever been for a while. With the signings being, I’d probably say it is the strongest it has been for the last ten years. Quite easily when you see players like John Cyrus coming into this league.
“I’ve looked who should be finishing in the top six and we’re probably three or four seasons away from that. But we’re going in the right direction. We’re not one of those teams who thinks ‘oh god we have to finish 16th or 17th’. We’re not thinking that.
“This year we’re thinking eighth, ninth or tenth something like that. If we get that, bang on and then we go again the year after.
“We overachieved last year with the age of the players, the budget, but this year I feel more confident with what I’ve got and what I’ve brought in and I would expect us to be more competitive each week, not every other week or every two weeks.
“The plan is we get better season on season and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Handsworth have retained their youngsters who now have a year’s experience of NCEL football and they are going to be helped along by several heavy duty experienced players.
Worksop Town title winners Lee Hill, Steven Wankiewicz and Kyle Jordan, plus experience in Sam Smith and Rikki Paylor have arrived.
Some have claimed the signings are a diversion from Eagle’s youth masterplan, but the Handsworth boss has shot his critics down.
“I haven’t changed the team for an old team,” he said.
“All I have done this summer is do what I said I was going to. I’ve got nearly all the lads from last season and I’ve brought in five experienced players.
“I’ve brought them in to help the young lads because we’ve gone to places and played really well, but got bullied because we were a young team.
“If I’m honest I don’t really care what people think and I’m doing what exactly I said I would do. I needed that experience and I’ve brought that experience in. If I get to that next level with those young lads and a bit of experience, job done.”
Handsworth’s First Five Fixtures
September 19th – Liversedge (A) – FA Vase
September 23rd – Athersley Rec (H)
September 26th – Grimsby Borough (A)
September 29th – Barton Town (A)
October 3rd – Bridlington Town (H)
If you have enjoyed reading Non League Yorkshire over the past few months, please consider making a donation to the not-for-profit organisation NLY Community Sport which provides sport for children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. CLICK HERE to visit the JustGiving page. There is a video at the bottom of the page showing our work.
NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams. As we slowly return to ‘action’, our work will play an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.
We have six teams, a mixture of Junior and Adult teams – Nostell MW DFC, Pontefract Pirates, Selby Disability Football Club and the South Yorkshire Superheroes (Barnsley) – across Yorkshire.
We have enjoyed great success over the past three years. Several of our players have represented Mencap GB in Geneva, including Billy Hobson from Selby and Greg Smith, whose story is quite inspiring.
Like most organisations, we have been affected financially by the Coronavirus and because of the cancelled Lucille Rollinson Memorial Tournament, we are down on projected income for the year and we have incurred losses in the last few months.
We have not been hit as badly as other organisations, but we do need raise £2000 to put us back at the level we were at in mid-March and enable us to make a difference once again to our players’ lives in the future, without having financial worries. Several of our players are suffering from effects of the lockdown and we are determined to be in the strongest position possible to provide services for them.
Any amount raised above £2000 will be put towards new projects (when the world returns to normal) designed to further benefit people with disabilities and learning difficulties. You can learn more about the organisation HERE and on our Facebook page.
Watch the video below to see highlights from our three years as an organisation. The video was produced for our players at the end of March to remind them of good memories from the last three years.