HYTHE & Dibden have a staggering EIGHT players missing for today’s Sydenhams One opener at home to Andover New Street.
The Watersiders will be kicking off the new campaign at Blackfield & Langley’s Gang Warily HQ while work is completed on their new home at Clayfields.
Manager Lee Burch is hoping for a strong start after leading the club to a best-ever fourth-placed finish last term, but he fears they could fall short of their targets unless players up their commitment levels.
Skipper Simon Davison, Dan Pancaldi, Nathan Renyard and Nick Jenkin are all unavailable today, Wayne O’Dell and Simon De’Ath are injured, Mark Lilley serves a two-match suspension and Jon Brock is at a wedding.
“Whether it’s just the time of year with holidays, weddings, etc I don’t know, but unless the lads can sort themselves out commitment-wise, we won’t be anywhere near where we want to be,” warned Burch.
“We beat New Street 7-0 in the final game of last season, but they’ve got a new manager, Paul Reidy, who will have brought in new players, so they’re an unknown quantity.
“We played Aldermaston in a friendly last week and won 6-1, but you can’t read too much into pre-season.
“My assistant Scott Johnston ended up playing and our goalkeeping coach Jamie Cotton played the second half in goal. We were nowhere near where we should have been.
“I’ve got to concentrate on getting commitment out of our players. If they’re all there, we’ll be okay.”
Offsetting Hythe’s temporary losses is the capture of well-travelled former Basingstoke, Newport IoW and Wimborne winger/striker Lee Chudy.
The 34-year-old is in line to make his debut today along with equally experienced frontman Steve Whitcher and former Team Solent defender Josh Watson.
Burch may also draft in some young reserve players, including promising 18-year-old right-back Nick Renyard.
Next Saturday Hythe will make club history with their first-ever FA Cup appearance at Winterbourne United in the extra preliminary round.
It will also be their first experience of playing on a 3G pitch at Winterbourne’s Oaklands Park HQ near Bristol.