HARWICH and Parkeston boss Kieron Shelley expects his side to be in the thick of the promotion race next season.

The Shrimpers hope to eclipse last term’s fifth-place finish in Thurlow Nunn League first division south and bring step five football back to the Royal Oak.

The league have already confirmed that the top four teams will all go up and so it promises to be a battle Royale.

Shelley says the stakes are high and knows expectations will be vastly different than this time last year, when the club were readjusting to step six football after coming up from the Essex and Suffolk Border League.

However, he is ready to embrace the challenge and believes this could be his year to achieve something special.

“I want everyone to see that last year wasn’t a fluke,” said the former Weeley Athletic and FC Clacton manager.

“I want us to make some noise, get the recognition we deserve and have a season to remember.

“We want to kick on and certainly not stand still.

“If you stand still, you’re going backwards, in my eyes.

“There needs to be some improvement and given that we finished fifth last season, that means finishing in one of the top-four promotion spots.

“Nothing less will do and I can’t have a season where we finish, say, seventh.

“Some people might still say that’s good and consolidation but it wouldn’t be good enough for me or the players, because they’re just as hungry as I am and I know we’re capable of more.

“Like me, these boys are here to win silverware and, come the end of the season, we want a big celebration, to look back on a great year together.

“I want the Harwich fans to have a golden year and special memories of our 2019/20 campaign.”

Harwich have strengthened their squad with a host of new signings, including Kevin Coyle, Michael Murray, Sean Bartlett, Sean Gunn, Sam Cripps and Brad Cook.

Other players from last season have also been retained and that list includes the likes of Jamie Beecham, Jordan Heath, Ryan Heath, Nicky Palmer, Sam Felgate, Harvey Cowler, Ross Purll, Elliot Fay and Charlie Cook.

The Shrimpers players are now back in pre-season training ahead of their first friendly, at home to Witham Town on Saturday, July 6 (kick-off 2pm).

“I came away from training at the weekend feeling great and absolutely buzzing,” added Shelley.

“There were a lot of new faces there and, as I’ve said before, they’re the right kind of players with the right attitudes.

“They’re lads that want to apply themselves and be successful here and you can feel that already, within the group.

“We’ve done lots of fitness work and the boys are taking everything on board.

“They’ve been superb and I’m expecting us to have a great year.”

Harwich had been due to play a friendly at home to Clacton on Tuesday, July 2.

However, that match has now been cancelled.