The 2020/21 season marks a bit of a fresh start for Vanarama National League South side Hungerford Town after the curtailment of last season.
The Crusaders were bottom of the division when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, nine points adrift of safety and looking like a return to step 3 for the first time since bursting in to the National League in 2016.
That’s not to say that relegation was a certainty, manager Ian Herring had beaten the odds the previous season as well as champions Torquay United in the penultimate game and were in the middle of a run of one defeat in four games in 2019/20, with two huge wins over promotion-chasing Braintree Town and Slough Town.
But at the end of the season, Herring departed, replaced by Danny Robinson, the FA Vase winning manager of West Berkshire neighbours Thatcham Town.
Robinson has brought with him a number of his Kingfisher squad, including several players who’ve previously played for Hungerford during their rise up the divisions, but the new boss is keeping his message straightforward: “The target is simply to do better than where they finished last season.”
The new manager’s stock is high. The Vase win and Uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division title in 2017/18 was followed by consolidation in the Southern League and what would have almost certainly been a top-two finish last season, the former Winchester City boss certainly brings an upward momentum to Bulpit Lane.
As he says: “Things are slowly coming together but there’s still lots of work to be done!”
The Crusaders have played four pre-season games so far, against the clubs new Hellenic League reserve side Hungerford Town Swifts (3-0 win), Highworth Town (2-1 win) and Wimborne Town (5-0 win) while on Tuesday night they played out a 1-1 draw with Hellenic League Brimscombe & Thrupp.
It’s a step up for Robinson at step 2, Thatcham were step 4 and probably would have been step 3 this season had things not ended prematurely, but the new Crusaders boss is giving himself time to adjust: “I had to stick a pin in training as the season now starting on the 3rd October. We’re having a good look at players and giving them chances to impress!”
Transfers in: Jack Self, Ryan Seager, Kensley Maloney, James Rusby, Matt Berry-Hargreaves, Dan Bailey, Conor Lynch, Tommy Rees, Callum Willmoth, James Harding, Matt Partridge, George Smith, Curtis Angell, Kyle Tooze, Baboucarr Jarra, Sol Wanjau Smith, Ryan Beckinsale, Luke Cairney, Nuno Felix, Mike Jones and Ollie Artwell.
Out: Joe Tomlinson (Eastleigh)