Little Common Football Club must use the 2018/19 season as a platform to push on next term, according to player-manager Russell Eldridge.
The Commoners consolidated their 2017/18 promotion by finishing 16th in the Southern Combination League Premier Division - their highest ever league position.
But they were very much in a battle to avoid relegation during the second half of the campaign before winning their last four matches to finish eight points clear of the drop zone.
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Eldridge said: “We don’t want to be in a similar situation to what we were this season. We will be looking to strengthen the squad and we’ve got to use this season as a platform to push on again next season.
“We’re not going to say we’re going to come in the top six or any other unrealistic expectations, but we want to do the best we can in terms of recruitment to ensure we’re not in a similar situation next year.”
After finishing in a promotion position but being denied the chance to go up for ground grading reasons in 2012/13 and 2016/17, Common finally moved up to step five of the non-league pyramid for the first time last year and Eldridge is determined to stay there.
“You could argue that we could and should’ve been in this league a long time ago because we’ve always been pretty successful in the league below,” he continued.
“We’ve finally been able to play at this level and I want to make sure we continue as a county premier team for years to come. It’s a hard job to get back up once you go down at any level of football.”
Eldridge, 36, plans to continue playing next term and hopes the existing squad will remain at the club as it continues its groundshare arrangement with Eastbourne United AFC.
“We’ll have a couple of weeks’ downtime before we start the planning for next season, but I’ve got no reason to suggest the boys would go elsewhere and I sincerely hope they don’t,” Eldridge added.
“We’re the highest team in the area, with the exception of Hastings, and we would like to think the group all want to challenge themselves at that level.
“I know the group probably feel they’ve got more to offer on a more consistent basis and to exceed what we did this season.”
Southern Combination League Premier Division bottom six final standings (all played 38 matches): 15 Langney Wanderers 37pts (-30 goal difference), 16 LITTLE COMMON 35 (-30), 17 Loxwood 31 (-34), 18 Eastbourne United AFC 27 (-51), 19 Arundel 27 (-54), 20 Shoreham 24 (-50).