Chatteris Town boss Taylor eyes Cambs Kershaw League promotion

Ian Hart: Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't
Ian Hart: Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't

For Chatteris Town Football Club, success has not been in short supply in recent times.

The Lilies won promotion to the Cambridgeshire Kershaw Premier Division alongside winning three county cups during the 2015-16 season, the most impressive victory arguably coming against higher-league Great Shelford to lift the Cliff Bullen Challenge Cup.

Since then, they have adapted to life at Step 7 comfortably, finishing fifth in their first term back at that level since 2013, exceeding manager Ashley Taylor’s initial aim of avoiding relegation.

The Lilies begin the new season with a tricky home fixture against Eaton Socon on Tuesday, August 15 (7.45pm kick-off), who finished just one place above Town in the league standings last campaign.

Taylor, who made a swift return to management after leaving his current post in May, has his sights set on further progress for his side after the club’s promotion plans were foiled during the last campaign due to not meeting ground regulations.

But the Lilies boss, heading into his third season with the West Street outfit, is optimistic progression to Step 6 is well in reach this time round amidst the challenges his players may face on the pitch.

“This season is promotion; that is what we’re looking for”, Taylor said.

“We applied last year and we were in a position where we could have gone up.

“We had to finish top five and we did.

“Again, we have to finish top five (to get promoted), but if we finish top five, then that means any team above us has not applied for promotion.

“I know Eaton Socon are applying and Lakenheath are as well, so really we have got to look to finish in the top three to get promoted ideally.

“From a ground point-of-view, there is not much to do. All we have got to do is get a turnstile and we are pretty much there.

“I think the league this year is going to be stronger than last year where there were two teams that ran away with it.

“This season, I think there are going to be five or six teams that have got a shout, including ourselves, so it is going to make it more interesting.

“You will see there will not be a team that wins the league by losing three games like Hardwick (last season’s champions) did.

“There will be five, six, seven games lost and a lot more open games in the season.”

Town have made five new signings during pre-season with two defenders and three midfielders arriving, and when asked about how the team is looking for the season ahead, Taylor felt pleased with his squad depth.

“If I am being honest, I think I have got the strongest squad that I have had since being a manager”, he said.

“Last year, we were unlucky with injuries and there were times where we had one or two on the bench and our bench was not the strongest.

“This year, we have got a really strong group of 16 to 18 players, so competition for places is good.

“We have near enough got two players for every position, which hopefully gets the best out of players because when you have got competition for places, it has more of a competitive edge with players.

“They know they would have to push themselves to stay in the team.”

Faith in the younger generation has been apparent from Taylor with the average age of his squad, but despite hinting he may have looked for older additions, the former Doddington United head coach believes his current crop can deliver the goods.

“With being young, we are always learning; we look to improve game on game.

“We are going to make mistakes, but I think the good thing is we have got young players that are hungry that want to try and do something in their careers.

“We are not in a beneficial position where we can have experience.

“We would love experience, but unfortunately we have not got and we cannot get it.

“If you are looking for a 30-year-old plus player that has played at a higher level, you have probably got to spend a bit of money and we cannot do that, so we look to bring on the youth.

“I think if we keep this group together, we should do well this season.”