Holleran: over-achieving Brakes desperate to prove they belong

After defying the odds to win the Southern League Premier Division last season, Leamington manager Paul Holleran accepts his side will have to confound expectation again if they are to flourish in the Conference North.

Joe Magunda is one of a number of Brakes players with a point to prove after being allowed to leave Brackley following their elevation to the Conference North.
Joe Magunda is one of a number of Brakes players with a point to prove after being allowed to leave Brackley following their elevation to the Conference North.

Brakes open up their campaign at home to Bradford Park Avenue tomorrow (3pm) with bookies rating them as 40-1 also-rans for the title.

Telford, Stockport, Altrincham and Brackley head the betting and underline the task facing Leamington as they come up against well-backed sides, both in terms of revenue and fan-base, week-in week-out.

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And, having spoken of the need to establish Leamington as a Southern Premier League club shortly after his appointment, Holleran is again eschewing the importance of walking before you can run.

“Make no mistake, we over-achieved last year,” said Holleran. “We had a good group of lads, but the most important thing was we got the momentum.

“Key signings freshened us up. Ricky Johnson, Martyn Naylor, Stefan Moore and Laurie Walker all came in and made a big difference.

“In the end, we were worthy winners and we could say we were the best side in the league.

“Now we need to bridge the gap.

“You’ve got half a dozen teams with full-time players, some big squads and ex league clubs.

“It’s going to be the toughest challenge since the rebirth.

“There’s no point making statements that we’re going to win the league - that would be silly.

“The club is growing on and off the pitch and the aim is to go in there, compete and establish ourselves as a Conference club.”

Holleran admits the loss of Richard Batchelor, who has been ruled out for the season after damaging his cruciate, leaves him short of options in the centre of midfield.

But he says the quality of the players at his disposal means he is content to bide his time for now.

“Losing Batch is a blow and my one concern,” he said.

“I’ve made one or two enquiries, but I can afford to wait for the right player to come along.

“We’re lucky that the remainder of the squad is at the right age, it has got some experience at this level and above and the hunger and desire, plus a little bit of quality as well.

“Most people understand it’s a big step, but it also brings a greater level of exposure.

“It’s a proper league and it’s great to be there.

“We’ll need to work hard to compete, but we’re desperate to do well and put ourselves on the map.”

Liam Daly misses out tomorrow as he serves a one-match suspension for his sending-off against Chippenham last season, but Holleran has been boosted by the return of Paul McCone who looks set to slot straight back into the heart of defence following his recovery from an appendix operation.

“Paul’s such a fit lad, we’ve got no issue with him.

“He had sessions on Saturday and Sunday and we upped it on Tuesday and he’s come through okay.”

Ricky Johnson is also available after recovering from jarring his knee at Halesowen, while Alex Taylor should make the bench.