Away trips a price worth paying as Lewes FC boss eyes pitch improvements

Tony Russell says he is looking forward to the start of Lewes FC’s 2022-23 season, despite it being ‘touch and go’ whether they will be able to play their first game at home.

The Rooks returned to training on June 18, with an initial focus on returning to fitness after their summer break. “We’ve probably gone back earlier than most, but we’re well into it. It’s good,” Russell said. “We’ve been trying to get the boys nice and fit, reactivate and get some injury prevention stuff in.

“We weighed them all before they left at the end of the season and they’ve all come back a good weight and fitness levels, so I’m quite impressed.”

Russell’s squad has lost Ollie Tanner and Taylor Maloney, but with others returning and a handful of additions to the squad, pre-season will see decisions made on who is part of the 22-23 dressing room.

Lewes boss Tony Russell is aiming for another season of success for the Rooks in the Isthmian premier / Picture: James Boyes

“Our plan is that I’ll be trimming down to about 18 outfield players and then give everyone the best opportunity to prove they’re good to go for the season,” said Russell. “We’ve got about 14. We’re going to look to carry around 17, maybe 18. So, we’ve got the last three or four to do.”

The Rooks’ pre-season takes them to a range of clubs, mainly in divisions below, including Lancing (tomorrow, July 9), Punjab United (12), Burgess Hill Town (16) and Sheppey United (19). Further games are scheduled at VCD Athletic (23), Welling United (26), Sevenoaks Town (30) and Corinthian FC (August 2).

“You want to test yourself to see where you’re at with teams from the league above, but obviously it’s been hard,” Russell said. The gas-guzzling nature of Lewes’ pre-season has been taken out of their hands by pitch improvements, which will have long-term benefits.

I’ll take it all day long considering the pitch we’re about to have,” said Russell. “But I don’t even think we’re going to be able to play at home in the first [league] game. I think it’ll be that touch and go. So, it’s not going to be ideal prep. But a good pitch is a good pitch. We’ll be fine.”

League fixtures will be released next Thursday but Russell said: “We’ve got to play everyone twice. I don’t fear anyone.”