When Michael Herbert and his management team swept in to Woodley United this time last season you’d have been forgiven for keeping expectations in check especially as the side finished bottom of the division at the end of 2015/16.
The young manager though quietly went about his business and guided an exciting to watch Woodley side to second place and promotion in the Hellenic League Division 1 East and cup glory in the Berks & Bucks County Intermediate Trophy.
The Kestrels were unbeaten for their first seven league games of the season and were real challengers to eventual division champions Penn & Tylers Green.
We caught up with Michael ahead of what will be a historic first ever season for Woodley at step 5.
Congratulations on last seasons success. How is planning going for life in the Premier Division?
Thank you very much. It is going well, we have been back in pre season a few weeks and the players are looking fit and sharp.
Looking back on last season, did you expect to be in this position this time last year?
We thought we would compete but it was difficult to say as we were a brand new team. We managed to get the balance right with the players we brought in. Hopefully we can do the same this season.
How big of a step up do you think it will be to the Premier? What steps have you taken so far?
It will be massive. Little old Woodley united in the premier is not something that’s really sunk in yet. Both Wokingham & Emmbrook and Henley Town were relegated straight back down so we know how difficult it will be. We will be favourites to finish bottom but we enjoy that. We are excited by the challenge. We have got the players in early for pre season to increase fitness but also organisation and team ethic. Team spirit was a big part of our makeup last season so we want that to continue.
Has anyone given you any bits of advice on the challenge ahead?
Yeah, I’m good friends with Alex Pearce at Derby county and he is given me some good advice. Also my management team are all experienced coaches/players so we know the direction we want to head in.
Which teams are you most looking forward to facing next season and which grounds are you keen to visit?
We are looking forward to playing against all the clubs but the ties that stand out are the teams you expect to be at the top of the table. Thatcham, Bracknell and Flackwell normally have the biggest budgets and the best players so we are looking forward to those games. Also Binfield are a top club in the area. Roger has done a great job in his time there so we are looking forward to pitting our wits against him and his team.
And finally, I asked Kieran this question but any particular player you ]have high hopes for next season?
I don’t like to talk about individual players too much. We have some very talented players but they are all as important as each other. We like to work as a team rather than individuals and this has played a part in the success we have enjoyed so far this season.
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