Joint-manager Nick Hawkins says Eastwood Town’s players are raring to go for the new season as they prepare to host Market Drayton Town on Saturday.
After two years of hurt that have seen successive relegations and widespread changes throughout the club, Hawkins says he is keen to see smiles put back on faces at Coronation Park.
And with a set of players who have bonded well on and off the pitch, he is confident that can happen quickly.
He said: “Everyone’s attitude has been fantastic, they’ve all worked hard and the chemistry in the dressing room is brilliant.
“Not only that, the pre-season performances have been really impressive on the whole and left me believing we can do well in this division.”
The last two friendlies saw Eastwood draw 2-2 with local rivals Ilkeston FC and then lose a two-goal lead against Matlock Town last Saturday, but the displays put on have given Hawkins confidence looking ahead.
“They are two decent sides who I think will be there or thereabouts at the high end of the Premier Division, and we more than matched them both,” he said.
“We should have won on both occasions but there were plenty of positives to take.”
Saturday’s opener against Market Drayton will be followed by a long trip to Bridlington on Tuesday night, the current base of newly-promoted Scarborough Athletic.
And Hawkins is in no doubt both encounters will be tough.
He said: “Market Drayton will be stronger this year than in the past and have former Wigan boss Chris Hutchings as their assistant manager, while Scarborough are a big club with plenty of fans and have spent some money over the summer.
“But we’re all buzzing and really excited for the challenge. We’ve a strong squad of around 18 and all will play a big part as we’ll pick teams based on the kinds of challenges we face, so depth will be key.”
On the playing front, left-sided player Russell Peel has agreed to sign for Eastwood following his release from Ilkeston.
Hawkins added: “I was best man at Russell’s wedding and know him really well. His fitness isn’t up to scratch yet but that will come with games, and given he’s played over 300 matches at this level there is no fear about his quality.”