Shaun Saunders revealed he is looking far beyond this week’s mammoth cup games ... and is planning for a future of long-term Ryman League football at the Tye’s Sports Track.
Weather permitting, Saunders’ Peacehaven team will take on Larkhall Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Vase tomorrow before hosting FA Cup heroes Hastings United in the Sussex Senior Cup on Wednesday night.
The Tye are also still in three other cups while riding high at the top of County League Division 1.
Because of this, fixture congestion is a real threat for the side, which is why it was so vital to get this week’s John O’Hara League Cup clash with Ringmer on – despite conditions that saw ALL other county league games called off since last Saturday.
Originally to be played at Ringmer on Tuesday, the tie was switched when it was considered much more likely to go ahead at the Tye’s Sports Park on the Wednesday.
But it still needed a Twitter appeal for helpers and volunteers to help clear all the snow that was covering the pitch. That was done in superb fashion and Tye’s players put in an equally impressive display to thump Ringmer 7-0.
“It was a real committee effort,” said Saunders. “Everybody turned up with their shovels and spent all day clearing it. It was an amazing job. The pitch was absolutely covered with snow at eight in the morning, and come six o’clock in the evening it was best part cleared.
“It was a really big push to get the game on. We’re still in five cup competitions and we’re still trying to win the league, so it’s important for us to get games played. We’re just hoping we do not fall too far behind. The pitch played really well.”
The county league congratulated “both clubs on their co-operation and willingness to actually get the game on”.
Saunders said: “Bob (Munnery) was quite happy just to get the game played. He’s the same at Ringmer: they have got a lot of games to play. It was very amicable between the clubs. It was agreed there would be no extra time.”
The Tye are now an incredible 26 games unbeaten. “We’re on a really good run,” admitted Saunders. “We’re taking it a game at a time, see where it takes us. It’s not the biggest squad, contrary to what people are saying. We have got 19 players including three goalkeepers. We will use everybody this season. We will keep everybody on their toes, we will be rotating.
“The league has always been our main goal. I want nothing to distract us from that, it’s our ultimate aim. And it’s not just winning the league, it’s being a Ryman League club. The club has been in the county league for ever, for too many years.
“Too many teams have gone up from the county league and then come straight back down.
“What’s the point in that? It’s a waste of time.
“We have got a really powerful committee at the club, people who roll their sleeves up.
“We’re setting to work on something that is not just going to get us there – but will also keep us there.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s clash with Larkhall of the Western League Premier Division, he said: “The Vase is obviously a massive cup competition – the biggest cup competition that we compete in. We’re in a situation where we’re in the last 32: if we win on Saturday we’re in the last 16, with a home tie against either the team that won it last season (Dunstan UTS) or a local derby (Tunbridge Wells).
“The lads are buzzing about the Vase. We’re really excited about Saturday’s game – I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about the prospect of getting into the last 16.
“We didn’t allow any talk about the Vase in the changing room last (Wednesday) night. Now all the talk is about how we adapt ourselves to win on Saturday.
“But we’re not getting carried away with ourselves. There are a lot of very good clubs left in the competition, and some with much bigger budgets than ours.”
That player rotation Saunders referred to most likely relates to cup games like Wednesday’s clash with Hastings, where the Tye boss will try to put the strongest team out possible without running his first team regulars into the ground before the winter is out.
“I have to prioritise somewhere along the line with these cups,” he said. “A lot depends on Saturday. We have got a really decent Under 18s side and our Reserves are top of the league. If we get knocked out on Saturday then the Senior Cup becomes the biggest cup we’re in.
“We could end up playing four games a week in the league. Hastings will be our cup final. We will be respectful of Hastings but we won’t field a team in a cup tie (with a view) to get knocked out of it.
“I might just give some of the youngsters who have done really well a game. But I still want to put a side out that will compete with them and give them a game.”