Horsham boss warns: Shorter season means small squads will come unstuck

Hornets manager Dom Di Paola is planning a bigger squad for the 2020-21 season – because of the intensity likely to be added to the fixture list in a shorter season.

Dom Di Paola
Dom Di Paola

The Horsham boss says clubs who attempt to get through with 16 or 17 players – the number he had at his disposal last season – could come unstuck.

As the government and FA continue discussions over when non-league football can return with fans allowed into ground, there seems little chance the league season will begin before mid-September.

That will give sides in 24-team divisions a huge challenge to fix all their fixtures in but Di Paola believes it will also have an effect on 22-team leagues, like the Isthmian premier division in which his side ply their trade.

“The season is going to be shorter and we will need a bigger squad, I think that’s pretty clear,” he said.

“Teams in the National League have more games and tend to have bigger squads in order to keep their players fresh. Last year we got on okay with 16 or 17 players but this year I think you could unstuck with that number.”

Di Paola says there are bound to be periods of the 20-21 campaign when sides are asked to play Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday.

And with perhaps eight games in a month, a small squad will soon be in crisis if the usual injuries or suspensions kick in. At least the Hornets are well on their way to assembling the sort of squad Di Paola thinks ideal.

As we reported last week, goalkeeper George Bentley forwards Rob O’Toole and Chris Smith, defenders Will Miles and Harvey Sparks, and midfielders Lee Harding, Charlie Harris and skipper Jack Brivio have all rejoined for the new season and are joined by wide man Callum Saunders, recruited from Haywards Heath.

Di Paola expects others from last season to rejoin and added: “We’re on the lookout for a couple more but we’re almost there.”

Horsham now wait to see when proper pre-season training can begin. It may be in late July or early August.

Di Paola added: “I want us to kick on again. I want to see the players come back with ambitions to do well.”