Media Manger Adam Allcroft headed to the Stocksbridge Park Steels training ground to talk to manager Chris Hilton ahead of the new season.
Adam Allcroft: We’re a few weeks into pre season now how do you think he’s been going so far?
Chris Hilton: I can sum it up in one word, frustrating. We have five or six missing every single game and it’s not the same five or six, it’s different every game so it’s very hard to get any team together or what you think the starting eleven is on the pitch at the same time so yeah, frustrating.
AA: So far Stocksbridge are yet to get a win in pre-season, is that concerning going into the new season?
CH: No, not for me. Some managers build their pre-seasons on winning games which we don’t. Our pre-seasons are built on fitness levels and getting ready so that we are at peak condition for the 14th when the season starts. Everybody wants to win every game but we try and make different games difficult for different reasons so no, winning and losing is not be all and all as long as we are improving each game but sadly this pre-season with having so many missing we haven’t been improving.
AA: One thing that’s notable about the squad is that it’s not changed much since last season. Is that a a conscious decision to try and keep stability considering many non-league sides have a lot of turnover in their playing squad?
CH: A bit of both really. These lads were in the play-offs the season before so we don’t need big changes. We do have to bring the right people though. We tried to sign a couple before pre-season started but unfortunately the deals didn’t come off. We looked at a couple of others but they’ve gone to teams higher up which is fair play to them, they are trying to better themselves. It’s difficult out there at the moment because as you can imagine there’s a lot of clubs fighting for players. Things will change again over the next month or so when squads are set out and people realise that they may not be starting so we may pick some up. Vice versa, we may lose some as well. We’ve kept what we got because we know what we’ve got and we’ll see what we can add to it.
AA: A question the fans have been asking is are we getting any new players in and when might we see them?
CH: Well we just signed Nathaniel Crofts tonight which will be announced in due course. He’s just come back from America, he’s a winger, we had him before and he’s an excellent player. We’re looking at 2 or 3 more so yeah we’re out in the market, we are looking for players. I think we need to bring a couple in which we wanted to do anyway before pre season started as I said in the question before so no we’re not trying to hide anything, it’s just bringing the right ones in.
AA: We saw a trialist in the match against Maltby and Stockport Town but he didn’t feature on Friday against Maltby. Is that not a move that’s happening?
CH: I know he’s been playing some game time for our second team as well so I believe last week that’s where he was.
AA: We’ve had a massive change to the league structure which means a lot of different teams compared to last season and the season before. What will this mean for Stocksbridge this season?
CH: It’s good that we’re playing different teams as for the last four or five years we’ve been playing the same teams week in and week out, I think that side of it will be good. I think this league will be tougher than the last league. That’s no disrespect to the teams that were in the league with us last year, there’s some big teams in this league. Travelling wise it is better for us, I think it’s about 1,000 mile a season less now and hopefully we’ll get more supporters through the gate because there’s more local games. It’s good for us moving into this league so fingers crossed we can do it some justice by winning some games.
AA: Are there any particular teams that we should be keeping an eye out for that could potentially be challenging for promotion or that we’re going have a particularly tough fight against?
CH: Well I would have thought the five Newcastle teams are going to be strong. Doesn’t matter whichever Newcastle team you play for from whichever division, they have got good and strong teams so I would think about them. The likes of Worksop and Pontefract teams as well. There’s some big teams in there and we’re looking forward to playing them all.
AA: Obviously because there’s been such a gap since our last fixture we didn’t get to face everyone last season, we’re not really sure which end of the table we’re going to end up at, where do you think we’ll end up landing?
CH: It’s difficult. As I’ve said in pre season we’ve not won any games and people forget that obviously with the Emley game that we’ve just played, they start their season this Saturday while we’re three weeks away. Their season finished well after ours finished so them four games have been our first four games in eight months. We will do what we always do, we will strive to be in that top ten to start with and then we will strive to push on from there for play offs but it’ll be difficult. Let’s see how the first couple months go, pick up as many points as we can and then we’ll take it from there.
AA: It was a shortened season last time but was there anything in particular you were able to learn from it going into this season?
CH: No, not really. The players were frustrated, I was frustrated. It was stop start and players were missing. The season before, we learned a lot from the group. It was a new group together and we learned a lot. But last season for us it was just difficult. Difficult all around to get any rhythm and to get anything out of it. It was no good, end of.
AA: And finally, it’s something a lot of people are asking, are you going to end the FA Cup curse and win in the tournament this season?
CH: Hahaha, brilliant. Here’s the dreaded question again. Yes, we’ll win in the FA Cup this season.