Wisbech take 3-week break before pre-season and potential three signings
Wisbech Town manager Brett Whaley says a successful end-of-season spell has left his side only two to three signings from a competitive squad for next season.
The Fenmen were struggling when the last two Northern Premier League (NPL) South East Division seasons were curtailed because of the Covid-19 pandemic - but there are hopes the 2021/22 campaign could be different.
Whaley's team will be in a newly-created NPL Midland Division where it is felt they can be more competitive, and a spell of seven friendly games during the last few weeks, culminating in a 4-1 win against Huntingdon Town on Saturday, has seen him put together the nucleus of a good squad.
"We are back in on June 24 for pre-season training, so now the boys go away with fitness programmes and we've told them all that if they are not fit when they come back then they will not play in that first game and will train until they are as we don't want people getting injuries in pre-season," Whaley told the Citizen.
"Nearly all the players have been playing now for a few weeks so will have a fitness base to kick on from. The next three weeks is important as we need to be ready. We've had seven games and we have another eight in pre-season. That's 15 games so there's no excuse not to be ready when the league campaign starts.
"We need them fit when they come back – we cannot waste time doing old school shuffles and runs when we are back as we have so much to work on."
Wisbech won six and lost one of their seven friendlies. Whaley added: "We have to be realistic. We have lost once and that was to a Step 4 side. We have played some decent teams and scored a lot of goals. We are certainly creating chances and looking like scoring goals.
"We have a way of playing that the boys have bought into but within that we need everyone to do be doing the same things and that's not always happening.
"We feel like we know the squad now, we know the holes that we've got and where we need to add but we also feel in a stronger position."
He said the current squad of 18 would be boosted to 21 if he got in the three players he is looking for, but realistically, that would be down to 17 or 18 by the time the league season starts.
"There were five players today that weren't involved (Liam Marshall, Danny Draper, Aaron Hart, Dylan Edge and Avi Vieira) who will want to play - we want players desperate for that shirt.Last year at times the boys who started probably looked at the bench and knew they would be starting every week. We need to create a bit of a competitive element to our squad.
"We are starting afresh and no-one has a head start on anyone else as we didn't do well enough last year. No-one put a real marker down to say they should be in week in week out so it's down to how much they want to be in the team.
"We're not going to win every week so if you're on the bench you need to be thinking about getting an opportunity and taking it. And if you're in the team, this time you'll have to work harder to stay there.
"The five boys we've brought in from March Town have stepped up two levels, but they were at the top end of that league and used to winning games whereas we were at the bottom end of ours and not used to winning games. The confidence of those players has made a difference to us."