Ash James hoping to use extra time to Burnham's advantage

Burnham manager Ash James has said he’s hoping to use the extra weeks afforded to him, following the early cancellation of last season, to mould a Blues squad capable of challenging for promotion.

This week the Blues boss confirmed the club was hoping to finish in the top four, having been moved laterally out of the Hellenic League and into a newly-formed Combined Counties Premier Division North.

The players are already back in for light training, initially one session a week before things step up from the beginning of July, and James is confident not only that he’ll keep the core of last season’s squad together, but also that they’re good enough to challenge at the right end of the table.

Last season, before the season was abruptly halted, the Blues made a slow start in the league, with the manager having been thrown in at the deep end as player/manager – without any real experience outside of being a captain – only three weeks before their first game.

This summer things have been a little different, more relaxed, but that doesn’t mean a lot of work hasn’t been going on behind the scenes to ensure the Blues are in the best possible place to compete again.

They’ll play more local games in the Combined Counties league and James is looking forward to competitive matches and less travel. Windsor have joined them in the division, while Holyport and Wokingham & Emmbrook have also been promoted into it.

“We’re happy with the move,” he said. “We know it’s going to be tough, but it’s also going to be more localised. That means no more trips to Gloucestershire.

“It will be exciting too to play against good local teams. It will be a good and competitive season I’m sure and we’re up for the challenge.

“It’s the complete opposite to last season when we came in just three weeks before the season started.

“We’ve had all this time and we’re trying to use it to our advantage. The squad is working hard, they’re coming back slowly, one session a week, and everyone knows what they’re doing.

“We’re got seven friendlies booked in from the beginning of July and we’re just waiting to announce it all. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes.”

James insisted the players who have shown loyalty to the club last season would be given their chance to take the Blues forward when the new campaign kicks off.

“We’re hoping to keep the core of our players,” he said. “The ones who have stuck by us will make it in the squad.

“It’s massive (having this extra time) and we’ve got to use it to our advantage. We’ve had more meetings, come up with ideas, it’s in stark contrast to last season but it should help, massively.

“The plan is to improve and we’re aiming for the top four. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. Hopefully, at the end of the season we’ll be happy and ready to go again, whether it be in the same league or the league above.”

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