So far so good for Sandbach United
Wed 2nd November 2016 | Sandbach United | By Ian Templeman
Sandbach United manager Andy Hockenhull says he is confident his side can build on the good start they have made to their first season in Division One.
The club moved up from the Cheshire League in the summer, with the move for the first team continuing the development of a club that had previously focussed on their junior set up, and now with the team sitting in a play-off position, the signs are they are more than adapting to life at the higher level.
It's been a promising start for a club that, as Andy pointed out, has only in recent years turned attention to adult senior football.
"As a club we have done things the other way round to a lot of others", explained Andy. "We had 44 kids teams, for both boys and girls, before we had a first team, and that is now starting to bear fruit.
"We had a lot of kids in on Saturday for the game, and we are getting people around us on matchdays, whereas other clubs focus on the first team and maybe have one junior team".
Once it became clear during the course of last season that United were in line for promotion, Andy began his planning for this season, both in terms of fact finding future opponents and building a squad to compete.
"We wanted deep down to firstly just survive, especially with relegation this year, we didn't want to get into that situation, but myself and my assistant felt that the difference between the league we have come from and this one wasn't massive", he said.
"I went and watched quite a few games last season, at Alsager and Congleton, Winsford, 1874 and places like that. From that, I knew we were not far off from where we needed to get to, and I think we have adapted really well.
"We knew there was some quality, but we have gone with a team ethic, getting the right people in the right places, and playing in the right shape.
"Most of the lads we have brought in are home grown Sandbach lads, and we also brought in some younger lads too. We've got lucky on a couple, we have some 18 and 19 year olds who have done well, and the mix of those younger lads with those I wanted to bring in has worked.
"The other thing we did look at pre-season was fitness. We have done better than we have done previously on that, and people have bought in to it. If anyone is not doing it, they know they will be off, and we have done that the hard way with some".
Andy had a good guide to his side's progress so far when they faced Premier Division promotion chasers Atherton Collieries on Saturday. Although Colls won 2-1, Sandbach ran them close and Andy says they took a lot from the game.
"They didn't have their centre forward (Mark Battersby) but we had a few missing as well, and if we hadn't hit the bar and shown a bit of quality in the first 15 minutes when we were on top, it could have been different", he said.
"I think we got at them defensively, although their midfield and forwards were strong.
"But it was great to come away and know that we have given them a game, and I was very pleased with the performance, as I think either they or 1874 will win the league.
"We played 1874 at the start of the season in a friendly and they turned us over big style, so to go from there to where we are now is fantastic".
Looking ahead, Andy is hoping his players can continue their rate of progress, as he works to push the club on.
"It's all about getting this club on the map. When I started at the club, I wanted to be above the likes of local teams like Lostock and Crewe FC.
"Now I want to get above the likes of Alsager and after that Congleton Town, and after that you have got Nantwich Town to aim at. I might not be here to see all that, but I think we are on the road to getting there.
"There's been a lot of hard work on our side of it, with the training and the work of the coaching staff but the players are massive. They believe in what we are trying to do.
"There are at least six or seven who could easily go anywhere and get money, but they are here and for me that's brilliant as it shows they want to play for me and play for the club.
"That's what make me keep going, they are showing great attitude towards what we are doing. I think we are going in the right direction, and the dressing room is the best I've seen in the four and half years I've been here.
"We've gone from starting out years ago in a local league, and now we're into the North West Counties and in a play-off position, and aiming higher every game".