Lewis Saxby says he’s been delighted by the progress made at Linby Colliery Welfare since he took over last summer.
Welfare look set for their highest ever finish in the non-league pyramid, with Saxby’s men heading for at least a top half spot in the Central Midlands League South.
And with there being a big onus on planning ahead for an even better campaign next season, Saxby is confident the future looks bright at Church Lane.
He said: “We were looking good for a top six finish at one point but our last couple of results haven’t helped our cause on that front.
“However, it still looks like we’ll have our highest ever finish and to achieve that in our first season at the club is fantastic.
“We’ve actually come a bit further than I thought we would given we only had two or three players here when I joined, but although it took a little while to settle we have a really good squad now, in fact if we’d had this squad all season I think we’d have been a top four side given our form since the team settled.
“So that gives us a lot to build on ahead of next season. Most of the squad seem happy here and keen to stay, and we get attendances at Church Lane that a lot of clubs would be happy with, even those at the level above, so there is great scope for progress next season.
“We have a very competitive squad and that’s important in a division where the bottom sides can beat the top sides on any given day.
“We’ve taken a lot of points off of the top sides since Christmas so that shows that we could well be up there with them next season if we can keep this team together.”
Saxby added that Church Lane could well have the relevant ground grading to allow the club to be promoted in future should things continue to progress well.
He said: “By April next year we should have floodlights so if we have the opportunity to push for promotion we can really go for it.
“It’s a big ask, particularly in a league where there is only one promotion place, but we have every reason to be confident we can achieve it before too long.”
Quirks in the Central Midlands League fixture calendar have meant a disjointed schedule for several teams, with current leaders Eastwood Community having just one game left to play but Matlock Town Reserves and Swanwick Pentrich Road still having eight to fit in.
And Saxby thinks his side’s early season schedule didn’t help his team.
He said: “We had to cram eight games into August when we’d barely had time to get a squad together, whereas I think Hucknall only played twice in that month, for example.
“We’ve then had long gaps without a game, sometimes longer than a month. With only 15 teams in the division it seems strange it couldn’t have been planned out better, even with the cup competitions to factor in.”
Like many managers at step seven, Saxby is a strong believer that a play-off systtem would be a welcome introduction in order to prolong more teams’ seasons as well as provide the opportunity for more than one team to be promoted.
He said: “At the moment, it’s not uncommon for seasons to be over by Christmas if teams are too many points behind the top spot to seriously challenge.
“With no relegation either, it means a lot of campaigns are all about playing for pride and position too early on in the calendar.
“Lots of teams at this level have ambitions and also the potential to comfortably play at a higher level so having just one promotion place makes it very hard and stifles some very good team’s chances.
“Obviously it would require some restructuring by the FA but I know they’re looking at potentially making a few changes so we’ll have to see what happens.”