Manager knows Tudors' Maidstone trip will be a tough start

Hemel Hempstead Town's National League South campaign begins this weekend

By Zoe Ashton
Thursday, 12th August 2021, 1:26 pm
Hemel Hempstead Town manager Lee Bircham
Hemel Hempstead Town manager Lee Bircham

Hemel Hempstead Town kick-off their National League South campaign on Saturday with a trip to Maidstone United and high hopes for a successful season.

Manager Lee Bircham says apart from injuries their pre-season couldn’t have gone any better.

“But that won’t matter if results don’t go well from Saturday,” he said.

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“It’s been a good pre-season for us but we’ve picked up quite a few injuries.

“It’s quite a lengthy list, but that has given other players a chance, which has been a good sign.”

Now their attentions turn to their league campaign, which will test them from the off.

“Maidstone is a tough one ,” said the Tudors boss, who says he has learned a lot in his first year in charge.

“They are one of the title favourites but we have to play every team at some stage, so why not at the start. It could have been an easier first game, but we’ll go and give it our best.”

And after a strong start Hemel will want to keep piling on the points.

“We are aiming for the play-offs,” Bircham explained. “There will be another 15 or 16 clubs all saying that, but we want to finish as high as we can.

“We have got a good squad from where we were last year, a young and hungry squad. If we can keep the group together and not pick up any more injuries we should do well.”

With a couple of departures and new faces joining the squad who have bedded in well, Bircham is pleased to have had a settled side through pre-season. And a weekend in Newcastle playing Morpeth Town last month was great for team building.

“It is a tough division, quite a few of the teams are full time, so we are up against it, but that’s why we do it - doing our best to upset the big boys!” he added.

And after all the disruptions of the pandemic, Bircham knows how important it is to have the fans back.

“Hemel is a massive community club and the players know the supporters are our twelfth man - especially having spent the last year without them. All football clubs really realise that now and having the fans back makes us as happy as can be.

“All clubs are on the same page this year - we all want to play a full season with nothing to stop us.”

Tudors won their final home friendly against Watford U23s 3-0 lastTuesday before the pre-season schedule concluded with an excellent performance at National League North outfit Gloucester City on Saturday.

Gloucester went ahead early on, but Tudors came back with a brilliantly worked equaliser with some precision play around the edge of the box ending in Noel-Williams nodding home from close range.