RICHARD Hill says he is “really looking forward” to leading Eastleigh into the Conference Premier next season.
Having been right-hand man to the likes of John Gregory, Brian Little and Andy Hessenthaler in the past, the 50-year-old former Northampton and Watford player is well versed with the demands of the Football League.
But aside from a spell in charge at Stevenage Borough between 1998 and 2000, Hill is a newbie to non League’s top flight – and he can’t wait to get started.
“I’m really looking forward to the Conference Premier,” he said.
“You’ve only got to look at the games on BT Sport to see some of the stadiums we’re going to be playing in next season.
“I don’t know a lot of the managers at that level but I’ll be very courteous and respectful of them all.
“I’m sure I’ll get on better with some than others, but I won’t have the time to row with the opposition bench!”
Eastleigh got a flavour of life in non-League’s fast lane last season when they played the likes of Gateshead and Football League new boys Cambridge United in the FA Trophy.
As an ardent Leicester City fan, the visit of Gateshead was a particular thrill for Hinckley-born Hill, with Foxes’ legend Gary Mills stationed in the opposite dugout.
“I didn’t know Gary Mills at all when we played them and I was actually a bit in awe of him,” the Eastleigh boss confessed.
“Then I saw him at a Conference meeting a few weeks later and he was very complimentary about my team and how we’d beaten them that day.
“We’ve also had a bit of dialogue with Cambridge since we played them and we wouldn’t have had that unless we’d been respectful of them.”
The arrival of quality strike pair James Constable, from Oxford United, and Jack Midson, released by AFC Wimbledon, comes as a huge boost for Eastleigh as they prepare for their biggest ever challenge.
Constable, who turned his back on another season in League Two to join the Spitfires, admits to being staggered by the quality of squad he is coming into – players of the calibre Ben Strevens, Chris Todd, Dean Beckwith, Jamie Collins and Craig McAllister.
He smiled: “I spent a couple of evenings looking at the players already there, wondering whether I’d missed something and it was a squad that had just won promotion from the Conference Prem!
“Add the players in that Richard wants to sign, and it excites me.”
It excites Hill too, but he can only wait and see how quickly his Skrill Conference South champions adapt.
“We’ll have a better idea about ourselves after three or four months,” he said.
“There will be players who we think are good players that won’t make the impact we think they will and there will be players we’re maybe not so sure about who will thrive.
“But I can’t say that about the players without applying it to myself too.
“Do I go on to thrive at that level or fall by the wayside?
“Only time will tell...
“Going up into the Conference Premier is going to be a big test for the players – and for me – and hopefully we’ll come through it together.”