Graves eyes progression as pre-season games loom

Hucknall Town v Clifton at Alfreton FC ground. Central Midlands League Cup Final. Pictured for Hucknall is a goal by Niall Thompson.
Hucknall Town v Clifton at Alfreton FC ground. Central Midlands League Cup Final. Pictured for Hucknall is a goal by Niall Thompson.

Hucknall Town hope to build on their recent success, as they eye their first 2015/16 pre-season fixtures.

Boss Andy Graves wants to improve on last season’s fourth place finish and win promotion from the Central Midlands, although he’s warning it won’t be an easy task.

Graves estimates that seven teams could be in with a chance of taking top spot, and come August they’ll all start scrapping tooth and nail for that one precious promotion place.

But having ended the previous season on a high with a League Cup triumph, Graves wants to carry that form into 2015/16.

“We want to continue to stabilise the club, we’re still trying to increase the fan base and we want to go for promotion,” he said.

“But everybody will be thinking the same, we don’t want to get over confident, it will be tough.

“Six or seven teams will have a chance this year.”

Graves has added to the squad that won the League Cup, with the signing of defender Michael Bannister from Clifton All Whites and the permanent capture of Niall Thompson, who left Torquay United.

Graves said: “We only wanted to add three or four, and we’re hoping to bring another in this week.

“We’re really pleased to have Niall with us, he’s a good young striker just out of the professional game and plenty of people will be watching him but he’s with us, he’s going to take his time and I don’t think it will be long before he’s back in the pro ranks.”

Having been at the club for 10 years and witnessed all kinds of turmoil on and off the pitch, Graves isn’t going to shed too many tears about the one departure they’ve had this summer – Kimberley bound Elliott Pitt – but neither is he going to pull his punches.

“It’s a backwards move for the player in my opinion, they’ve offered him money so good luck to him,” he said.

“He’s be the first to leave and want to come back and he won’t be the last.

“They’re one level above and don’t get the fans we get.”

The fans he talks about, who averaged an attendance of 110 last season, will get their first glimpse of match action next week.

A planned game against Marlon Harewood and other ex-pros won’t take place this Saturday, after Harewood got injured, but Hucknall do begin their summer fixtures on Wednesday when they face Coalville Town at home.

Heanor Town, Gedling Miners Welfare, Thoresby, Carlton and Worksop Town will all follow.

Graves said: “We were back in training on the 20th, the lads have had a break but management never get a break really.

“They’ll all be tough pre-season games, they’ll give us a good test, but you don’t really learn too much from friendly games.”

And off the pitch, things will carry on as normal.

“We’re a lot more stable than we were when I took over as first team manager two seasons ago,” he said.

“With the hard work of those around me, and the players, we’ve grafted.

“The five volunteers who run it have got the club back where it should be.”