NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Whittlesey Athletic target a winning start to their exciting new era

Whittlesey Athletic player-manager Ricky Hailstone showing off the Cambs Challenge Cup that the club

Whittlesey Athletic player-manager Ricky Hailstone showing off the Cambs Challenge Cup that the club won last season with children Ruby and Alfie. Picture: DAN MASON - Credit: Archant

Player-boss Ricky Hailstone is determined to ensure an exciting new era for Whittlesey Athletic begins in winning style.

The local club return to the United Counties League on Sunday when entertaining Huntingdon Town in their Division One curtain-raiser at the Feldale Field (5.15pm).

A bumper crowd is in prospect with the match forming the final part of a three-day groundhop in Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire which attracts supporters from across the country.

And Hailstone, who is likely to miss the match through injury, hopes the people of Whittlesey also turn out in force to get behind his promoted side.

"It's an exciting time for the club," said Hailstone. "We've got the funding through and the work planned for the floodlights and it's now all systems go with the season starting on Sunday.

"Some people may see it as a big step up after we only finished fifth in the Peterborough League last season, but we had to take the opportunity of promotion when it was available to us.

"I don't actually think there will be that big a gulf in quality between our old league and the new one, but I guess we'll find out whether that's right as the season progresses.

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"Sunday should be a good occasion for the club. Starting the season so early is probably not ideal for me as a manager, but it will generate a lot of revenue all being well.

"Hopefully the people of Whittlesey come along and get behind us as well as the people taking part in the groundhop.

"I don't know a lot about Huntingdon, but they have a manager in Jimmy Brattan who is capable of putting a good side together.

"However, we'll just focus on ourselves and trying to produce the right performance for such a big day.

"We've got no expectations for this season other than to make sure we stay up, and hopefully we can get the first three points towards that."

Goalkeeper Lea Jordan (Chatteris Town), midfielder Scott Carter (Blackstones) and striker Jamie Darlow (Warboys) have all departed Whittlesey this summer along with assistant manager Simon Flanz.

Midfielder Matt Ilsley and winger Aaron Warrener are new signings with previous United Counties League experience while former Whittlesey player Lee Davison has stepped up to be Hailstone's number two after running the club's reserve side last season.

Admission on Sunday is £4 for adults, £2 for concessions and free for children under 16. There is a range of hot and cold refreshments available.