Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola says it’s crucial the club stabilises themselves this season as they return to the Ryman League ranks.
The Southern Combination League champions return to the South Division after just a year away, kicking off at Gorings Mead against Carshalton Athletic on Saturday.
Di Paola says the pressure is off and he is looking forward to enjoying the campaign, but believes they must rebuild their reputation at this level.
A number of struggling seasons eventually saw them relegated two years ago, but an impressive year has seen them bounce straight back.
They are not setting the bar high this year and are rather starting on the road to recovery.
Di Paola said: “Given the budget and the fact we have just come up, in an ideal world if we could have a trouble-free season with no relegation worries and not really pushing on, I’d be happy with that.
“We need a season of consolidation that’s the aim. The club needs to stabilise in the Ryman League. The last two season there were shambolic and before that it was relegation from the Ryman Premier.
“We need to get a foothold in the league and accept there will be a few ups and downs and we will probably go on a run of defeats.
“It will be different to what we are used to, but it is a very competitive league with serious teams, serious budgets and serious players.
“We need to stabilise as a team and start building for two or three seasons with the aim of bringing some young players through. Hopefully we can get the new ground and then push on from there.”
Young full-back/winger Sam Beard has joined the club on a dual-registration deal with Loxwood after an impressive pre-season.
And although Di Paola will be without Alex Duncan and Tom Lawley (holidays) and Mark Knee and Adam Hunt (injured) in Saturday’s opening, he can’t wait to get going.
He added: “I am looking forward to it. We have a bunch of players that are untested at Ryman South, but we just want to enjoy the season. I do not feel there is any pressure on us like there normally is.
“I think if we can stay in the league that’s a great achievement from where we have been the last couple of years.
“We are still ground sharing and despite the club being big in name, it’s not in terms of anything else at the moment with no under-18s or 21s or anything.”
Coach Simon Funnell has left the club just two months after joining, citing he was looking to play a bigger role.
The Carshalton game kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, while Horsham then travel to title favourites Greenwich Borough on Tuesday night.
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