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Town boss: ‘We won’t class survival as a success’

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Simon Weaver insists that Harrogate Town won’t class surviving in the National League this season as a success.

The ambitious Town boss is hopeful that his team can make a real impression during their first ever appearance in English football’s fifth tier and says he would love to deliver another play-off adventure.

“When I’ve been speaking to fans and people around the town and they’ve been wishing us luck for the coming season, almost to a man they’ve been telling me that we just need to try and stay up,” said Weaver, who led Town out of National League North last term.

“I think that at boardroom level, survival would probably be deemed acceptable as well, but within the dressing room we have our own targets.

“We want to do more than just stay up. We are determined to make an impression and won’t class survival as a success.

“We’ll try our hardest to ensure that we are in the top half of the table, and although I’m not saying that we must do that, I’d love to get everyone excited again by having a team that still has something to play for and is chasing a play-off place come the last few months of the campaign.”

Bookmakers are giving prices in the region of 40/1 for Town to win the National League in 2018/19, with the general consensus being that they are a solid bet for a mid-table finish.

And although he is aiming high, Weaver is not underestimating the size of the task ahead of him.

“Our eyes are wide open and we know exactly what we are getting into,” he added.

“We’ll be up against better players, bigger athletes and clubs with much larger budgets this season, but that’s what we want.

“We craved a new challenge, and after nine seasons as manager, I was tired of playing the same teams in National League North and I wanted to visit some different grounds and to test myself in a higher division.

“The prospect of taking on some of the bigger sides in the division like Leyton Orient, Chesterfield and Hartlepool is very exciting.

“We are definitely ready for the challenge. A lot of clubs in the National League may view us as little Harrogate Town, but that’s not who we are. We’re ambitious and we want to do well in this division.”

While it is impossible not to look ahead and consider the bigger picture, such is the excitement surrounding the club’s first season playing in the fifth tier, Weaver’s immediate focus is very much on Saturday’s visit of Sutton United.

Having finished the previous campaign in third place, only to lose out in the play-offs to Boreham Wood, the U’s are expected to provide one of Town’s sternest tests of the campaign.

“Sutton are a big, powerful team, full of experience and will provide a very tough test,” Weaver continued.

“Having watched them, you can see how consistent they are. They’ve barely conceded a goal in pre-season and that is because they are so organised and rigid when they don’t have the ball.

“What we will have to do on Saturday is make sure that we start fast and move the ball quickly so that we can hurt them.

“It’s a difficult one to start with, but there are no easy games in this division.

“We won’t go into the match with apprehension because we are confident in our own ability, but whatever happens, it’s not just about one game.

“This season is a long one, so whether we win or lose on Saturday it’s only one result, and with seven fixtures in the first month, we can’t allow the way we react to this match to have a knock-on effect in weeks to come.”

Forwards Mark Beck and Jordan Thewlis are still some weeks away from a return to training and are not in contention for this weekend’s clash, but otherwise Town are at full-strength.

Both Joe Leesley and Lloyd Kerry got minutes off the subsititutes’ bench against Cefn Druids on Saturday before featuring again for the under-19s in midweek.

“We’re in good health,” Weaver added.

“We’re certainly in a better position for having Joe and Lloyd back fit.

“The lads have worked hard all summer and we’re ready to go.”