Harrogate Town v Rochdale AFC: We are better equipped for League Two this time around, insists captain Josh Falkingham

Josh Falkingham believes that Harrogate Town are better equipped for life in League Two than they were this time 12 months ago.

By Rhys Howell
Saturday, 7th August 2021, 8:24 am
Updated Saturday, 7th August 2021, 8:32 am
Josh Falkingham in pre-season action against Sunderland. Pictures: Matt Kirkham
Josh Falkingham in pre-season action against Sunderland. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The Sulphurites kick-off 2021/22 with a home showdown against Rochdale on Saturday having strengthened their squad over the course of the summer and with the added benefit of having a full pre-season under their belts.

Last year's preparations were hindered by the fact that the club did not know which division it would be playing in until the first week in August due to the Covid-19 enforced delay to the conclusion of 2019/20.

That situation also meant that Town’s players barely had any time off to rest and recuperate before reporting back to training, and Falkingham is confident that he and his team-mates head into the new campaign in a much better place.

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Harrogate Town skipper Josh Falkingham.

“The gaffer has brought in a good set of lads, there’s more Football League experience in the squad now, we’ve had a full summer off and also had time to spend working on a lot more stuff on the training ground,” he told the Harrogate Advertiser.

“So I definitely believe that we are in a better place than we were this time last year.

“We also learned a lot last season. There were some difficult periods, but for a lot of the lads it was our first time playing in the Football League. Those experiences will stand us in good stead and we’ll have a better idea of how to deal with certain situations and different stages of the season.

“We don’t go into 2021/22 riding that wave of momentum you get as a promoted club, but we are still definitely better equipped, plus we’ve got the fans to come back and that is a massive factor. Having them behind us will really drive us on.”

Town finished their debut League Two campaign 17th in the table, but having seen his team briefly flirt with the play-offs, club captain Falkingham has revealed that he was left wondering what might have been.

“Last season, in my eyes, was quite frustrating really,” he added.

“When you look at some of the situations we got ourselves into, we were within touching distance of the play-offs but then fell away.

“Personally, although I think 17th place is good for our first season in League Two, I saw enough to think that we could have done better.

“We got ourselves into some decent positions and maybe we could have achieved more, but the important thing is that we learned plenty from the experience.”

Falkingham, however, would not give too much away when asked what exactly he and his team-mates were setting their sights on this term.

He replied: “It’s a difficult question to answer because obviously we don’t want to put pressure on ourselves by saying we are going for automatic promotion or we have to finish in the play-offs, but at the same time we don’t want to look like we have no aspiration.

“Since I’ve been at the club we have enjoyed progression every season, so what I would say is that if we can finish higher than we did in 2020/21 then that would represent progress and, I think, be classed as another good year.

“But for us, as a group, while we don’t want to kill ourselves by aiming too high we’ve got used to that winning feeling over the years, we’ve got used to being successful. We finished last season on a high by winning another Wembley final, another piece of silverware, so we want more success again this time around.

“We cannot afford to stand still. We have to continue to make progress year on year. We’re always striving to get better.

“We don’t want to be looking over our shoulders, we just want to be looking up the table.”