Finally, it’s here, the big kick-off, not only of the new Ryman Premier League season, but also of this brand spanking new Sutton United blog...and just in the nick of time too...
The aim is to just offer a fan’s eye view of what’s going on at Gander Green Lane on and off the pitch over the coming season in what will hopefully be an exciting roller-coaster ride featuring far more ups than downs.
So, where do we start? Well, as we have less than 24 hours until the curtain goes up on the new season we had better get down to business. After what seems like a long pre-season, especially for teams in the Ryman League, United start their campaign against newly promoted Concord Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘Concord, where in the blue blazes is that?’ Well, Canvey Island apparently, and that’s a place we know only too well. They will be keen to impress in what will be their first game at this level of football and have a more than capable striker in former Chelmsford City man Bertie Brayley, so we shouldn’t take them lightly.
I’ve got to admit, I know as much about Concord Rangers as I do about the history of folk music in the Faroe Islands, but what I do know is that they’ve enjoyed some success in recent years and will be up for it come 3pm tomorrow.
However, they may well have Brayley and co, but fear not dear Sutton fans, we’ve got Richard Jolly. I know which striker I’d rather have. We’ve been crying out for a lethal predator in our last two tilts at the Ryman title, so it was pleasing to see Paul Doswell act swiftly in the early part of the summer to get his man.
You’ve got to hand it to Dos, not only has he used his wiley ways to lure Jolly to Gander Green Lane, but also the likes of Craig Dundas, Sam Page, Simon Downer, Tom Davis, Fola Orilonishe and Tom Dunford.
In my opinion all of these signings are a signal of our intent to come top of the tree this time around. The signing of former Southampton trainee Dunford may well prove to be the shrewdest of the lot.
I’ve seen a few comments on the forum about Jolly not finding the target much in pre-season, but his game is so much more than that and to have him lining up for rather than against us can only lend weight to our promotion ambitions. His name strikes fear into sides across the division.
There’s no doubting Doswell's ability to attract decent quality players to our club. Long gone are the days of John Rains where we wouldn’t know who was going to pull on the amber and brown shirt until the season was virtually upon us.
I’m under no illusions, I don’t think we’ll be the next Dartford or Dover in the sense we’ll run away with the championship, because I think there are some other suitors to the throne.
If we take a quick look at some of the other runners and riders then obviously, Croydon Athletic have made some jaw-dropping acquisitions of their own – most noticeably Jermaine Wright, who left behind the heady heights of the Premiership with Blackpool, for the joys of running out for the Rams in front of 100 or so hardy souls at the KT Stadium. Former Sutton man Tom Hutchinson is also an excellent recruit. There's no doubting in my mind that Croydon will be tricky customers this season.
Thankfully, the World Cup and the building of two controversial dugouts at Gander Green Lane has helped make the memory of that heart-breaking play-off defeat at home to Kingstonian seem distant. The Ks will feel hard done by after their own play-off heartache at Boreham Wood, so I fully expect them to be up there challenging this time. Other contenders could be Wealdstone, newly promoted Lowestoft and our old pals at Tonbridge Angels. The latter, much to my regret, have acquired one of my favourite Sutton players from last season, Alan Pouton.
One intriguing team to keep an eye on will be our old friends at Tooting and Mitcham. With our clash on Bank Holiday Monday rapidly approaching, I suspect not even their new boss Mark Beard will be quite sure what to expect from his squad of waifs and strays.
The circus that is Carshalton Athletic keeps rolling on. I’m not going to rant about that bunch from down the road too much, but I think their appointment of Lenny Lawrence as Director of Football may well be another case of the Robins building a nest made purely from clutched straws. We’ll see, as far as we’re concerned there are bigger fish to fry.
Having been so close in the last couple of seasons I think we might do ourselves a favour this time and set our sights on the title and not just settle for a play-off berth, For me, and no doubt for Dos and his troops too, it has to be the championship or bust.
In terms of our preparation and pre-season I think the boss has got it right. The plan seems a simple one:
1) Get most of your squad sorted before you go away on holiday.
2) Line up a handful of friendly matches - there's no need to have eight or nine like some teams.
3) Hone your skills and tactics in training.
4) Introduce some team bonding fun and games.
My next post will be after our first game down the Lane on Tuesday night against Horsham who, by my reckoning, will be amongst the also-rans.
Come 4.45pm tomorrow we will know if we're off to a flier or struggling to take-off. One thing is for sure, if we're going to show what we can do this season then games like this one against Concord should be plane sailing.