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Haverhill Rovers manager Fergus O'Callaghan hunting for top 12 position in league, ahead of season opener away to Godmanchester Rovers

Haverhill Rovers manager Fergus O’Callaghan said that while his overall ambitions for the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side are long-term, he is keen for a quick return on his summer investments as he targets a better league finishing position than 2018/19.

The former Walsham-le-Willows assistant boss said he expects it to be a ‘tough season’ in his first campaign in The New Croft dugout having recruited a young squad over the summer months, but is still hopeful of wrapping up the league campaign higher than 12th.

The club will open their 2019/20 Step 5 league campaign on Tuesday, August 6 away to Godmanchester Rovers (7.45pm), a team O’Callaghan has tipped as a title contender.

FOOTBALL - Haverhill Rovers v Hertford Town..*no team sheet available*...PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (14518905)
FOOTBALL - Haverhill Rovers v Hertford Town..*no team sheet available*...PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (14518905)

“It’s good to finally have our first league game just around the corner,” he said. “And it’s a good fixture to start; for us to go up against a good side – Godmanchester are always a strong team that have been challenging in the league for years – is a perfect way to get going.

“It’s good for us to know we have to be competitive from the start, and to put ourselves up against one of the best we will face all season is great; nothing will be able to surprise us as the season goes on. I would expect Godmanchester, Stowmarket Town and possibly even Stanway Rovers to be right up there come the end of the season.

“It’s going to be a tough one, we are under no illusions, there’s been a lot of changes at the club in the last few seasons and it will take a bit of time for everything to settle down. We are looking at the long term and building a club for many seasons to come, but that takes time.

“So I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations straight away – if we could finish a few steps above where we finished last year, then I will be happy.”

He revealed he had decided to make AFC Sudbury Academy graduate Alfie Carroll the new club captain, following Sam Holmes’ decision to stand aside in June, as well as convincing forward Ryan Gibbs to sign an FA Contract.

“Alfie was one of the top performers last season,” O’Callaghan added. “And showed his commitment on a number of occasions with last ditch tackles.

“I have built a good relationship with him and he has shown good on-field leadership, he’s the captain for the future.

“And I’m delighted that Ryan has signed, he has a lot of potential and will play higher – I think his Bury Town and Needham Market chances came too soon – and I think the club should benefit from that.

“I was thinking about it last year at Walsham, as you work to develop a player and then they move on, I feel it’s important for everyone to benefit.”

He added he feels the club are a ‘little bit off’ their recruitment potential, with further movement still expected in the coming weeks.

The club have already brought in Gibbs, Josh Revell, Craig Pruden from Haverhill Borough, Max Dinnell, Kieran Michaels, George Ablitt and Josh Martin, while announcing the re-signing of Carroll, Luke Haines, Ben Tait, Henry Hall and Jemel Fox. Harry Halls and Holmes have departed.

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