PAUL SMITH says he is “fighting tooth and nail” to keep his cup-winning Bromsgrove Sporting squad together as he prepares a title tilt next season.
Sporting begin their pre-season build-up next Tuesday with their first fitness session.
But boss Smith, who led the Rouslers to the Les James Challenge Cup in May, admits several key players are attracting interest from clubs higher up the non-League pyramid.
Cup final scorers Josh McKenzie and Sam Wills, plus the likes of Reece Hewitt, Danny Morris, and Sean Brain, are being courted by other clubs with bigger budgets but Smith hopes Sporting’s success will persuade them to stay.
“When you are successful, it does mean the footballing vultures tend to circle your players,” said Smith. “Clubs from higher up the pyramid start to look at your players and there does seem to be plenty of money on offer elsewhere. But the squad has grown together and I’m fighting tooth and nail to keep them together to have a tilt at the title next season.
“We’ve built a good camaraderie and a good craic and I hope that, plus playing in front of crowds of 300 at Bromsgrove will make it really tough for any player to leave. Money isn’t the be all, end all.”
Smith will look to strengthen his squad regardless of any exits, and three or four new faces will be invited to pre-season.
“In football, you can’t stand still, you need to keep improving,” added the Sporting boss. “You look at teams coming into the league like Coventry United and Leicester Road and they have big resources while I read that Hinckley have signed Shane Benjamin, who was the Golden Boot winner in the Midland Premier.
“The league is going to be tough again but we ended the season with 16 wins in a row and we want to be challengers again. This is the best football club I’ve been at and it’s geared up to go up the leagues.”
Sporting will face opponents from five different leagues in their pre-season friendlies.
Newly-promoted Southern Premier side Stratford Town, plus Midland Premier runners-up Coleshill Town and North West Counties League side Runcorn Town will all visit Bromsgrove.
The Rouslers begin their preparations at FC Stratford on Saturday, July 11 and also visit West Midlands Leaguers Cradley Town and Dudley Sports, as well as travelling to Manchester to play West Didsbury & Chorlton.
FIXTURES: Saturday, July 11 v FC Stratford, Away (2pm);
Sat, July 18 v Cradley Town, A (3pm);
Tues, July 21 v Stratford Town, H (7.45pm);
Sat, July 25 v West Didsbury & Chorlton, A (3pm);
Tues, July 28 v Coleshill Town, H (7.45pm)
Sat, August 1 v Runcorn Town, H (3pm)
Tues, August 4 v Dudley Sports, A (7.45pm).