08:31AM, Thursday 30 July 2015
As the final whistle blew on Flackwell Heath’s marathon title-winning campaign back in April, nobody could have imagined that three months later the Heathens would be preparing to spend another season in the Hellenic Premier Division.
But after a turbulent summer saw the club moved into the Southern League South and West Division in an FA approved league restructuring, manager Graham Malcolm said they were left with no option but to turn down promotion due to high travelling costs.
And as his side now look forward to returning to competitive action, Malcolm told the Advertiser his players are looking to put the summer’s drama behind them.
He said: “With all that went on it’s probably good that we’re back playing.
“It’s a very difficult one for us. We’ve just got to let the season start and see where it takes us. To win the league and stay in it is very difficult.
“We’re trying to drum it into them, ‘could we do it again?’ We just need to go again and see if we can reproduce anywhere near what we produced last year.”
The Heathens no longer have the goal-scoring prowess of Gavin James to rely on after the red-hot striker signed for Maidenhead United.
But Malcolm said he expects his other in-demand forward Dan Burnell to stay at Wilks Park this season.
“I don’t envisage him going anywhere else now,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned he’s back where he belongs and this is really where he should play.”
Fresh faces have also been recruited, with goalkeeper Dan Weait and wing-wizard Seb Bowerman both signing from Binfield.
Malcolm refused to be drawn on specific targets for the season but said he was keen for the club to prove they were ‘a proper non-league side’ with some potential cup runs.
The Heathens have been drawn against AFC Hayes in the FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Qualifying Round.
But first up they face a 210-mile round trip to face Lydney Town for their first game of their title defence on Saturday, August 8.
The irony of the travel involved for Flackwell’s season-opener at Lydney was not lost on Malcolm at all.