The path to success never runs smooth for Lowestoft Town
- Credit: James Bass
Lowestoft Town don't like it easy.
In fact they showed last season how much they revel in adversity. On the back of three successive play-off final defeats the Trawlerboys somehow managed to extricate themselves from the Ryman League Premier despite having to make financial cutbacks in the process.
They were rewarded with a place in Conference South...
Except it won't be in Conference South – the Blues make the first of many long trips north this afternoon after Hereford's expulsion from the Conference engendered a ripple effect that saw Lowestoft switched to the northern section.
A player recruitment drive that had focused mainly on London-based players forced a re-think while the current Blues squad mulled over whether they could commit to a campaign where so much travelling would be involved.
After the initial shock, a modicum of calmness has returned to the Meadow and Craig Fleming takes his side to Chorley today knowing the club is about to embark on the biggest challenge, on the field at least, in its history.
'I think it's been difficult for everyone concerned at the club – for the board, Gary (Keyzor), Mick (Chapman), Ady (Gallagher) and the supporters.
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'But we've got our heads around that now. There are going to be things crop up in the course of the season we're going to have to deal with – that's natural.
'We will all sit down together before it starts and have a good chat. We know it's going to be a massive challenge with the travelling and things like that. For instance the coach is leaving at 5.45am on Saturday. Putting myself back to being a player that obviously isn't ideal – they are huge hurdles to overcome but they're not insurmountable.
'We've got to stay together and I'm sure the lads will because I honestly have never worked with a better group of players.'
Fleming admits the club will be embarking on a trip into the unknown, unsure of the standard of teams they will be facing on a weekly basis. One bookmaker had Lowestoft at 100-1 to be champions but it is impossible to say whether they are being overly generous at this stage.
'I think the first half dozen games it will be a case of feeling our way into the league,' added the former Norwich City defender. 'We've had it before where we have been promoted and we don't know what the standard is going to be like.
'It's only after a few games you start to get a feel for it.'
One man who knows all about Conference football is new striker Jefferson Louis although with 30 clubs to his name there isn't much he doesn't know about the non-league game.
Despite his nomadic career, Louis has shown in the Blues' pre-season games an ability to hold the ball up front, the kind of which hasn't been seen since Jack Defty broke his leg towards the end of the 202/13 season. Louis' presence should compensate partly for the loss of last season's top goalscorer Jake Reed, who left to join Sudbury.
Shaun Bammant made his move to the Meadow permanent after impressing on loan while Joe Marsden and Rickie Hayles, from Wroxham and Hornchurch respectively, flesh out a squad that will be tested to the limit this season.
'I think the ones we really wanted we managed to get done early in the summer,' he said. 'Jefferson's experience will be important – he's very good with the younger lads, constantly talking to them.
'We are looking to bring in one or two others but as we've said before they're going to have to be the right ones.'
No new faces are expected to be making the trip to Lancashire this afternoon to take on a Chorley side that won the Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division last season.
Managed by former Manchester City and Blackburn midfielder Garry Flitcroft, the Magpies are expected to be among the frontrunners in the division this season after cruising to promotion last season in the same league as King's Lynn.
'They get good crowds at home and they are going to have a bit of momentum like us having come up as champions,' said Fleming.
'I spoke to Setch (King's Lynn manager, Gary Setchell) after the match on Saturday and he said they are a very good side but we know we're going to come up against these types of challenges every week.'
Ashlee Jones' fitness remains a concern with the goalkeeper struggling for much of the summer with a shoulder complaint. The Blues management will give the former Canvey man every chance of proving his fitness although Jake Jessup is ready to step into the breach.
Well, it wouldn't be Lowestoft if the build-up was completely smooth.