IAN LONG says Alvechurch will need to raise their game next season because Southern Premier Central will be even tougher.
Having last played in the Southern Premier three decades ago, Church ended their first season at step three level by finishing fourth before bowing out in the play-offs final to King’s Lynn Town.
The Linnets went on to secure their place in the National League North by winning the super final last weekend at Warrington.
Long suggested the Norfolk side, with their bigger fanbase and resources, had been arguably the best team in the league but he says the standards across the division will only improve.
Next season’s Southern Premier Central structure is also set to include neighbours Bromsgrove Sporting, who have achieved three promotions in successive seasons, plus Nuneaton Borough, who have been relegated, Hednesford Town, who are likely to be moved from the Northern Premier, and Bishop’s Stortford, from the Isthmian Premier.
Long and No 2 Rich Colwell, who have steered Church to record-breaking success over the past four years, know the challenge will be even bigger.
“Despite the disappointment of losing in the play-offs, it has still been a fantastic season,” said Long. “The players deserve huge credit. They’ve put in a lot of hard work and we’ve all worked together to make it a memorable season for Alvechurch.
“The only way we can improve next season will be to win promotion. That’s going to be very difficult.
“Next season will be tougher. You just look at the teams coming into the league. Then you’d expect Tamworth will be stronger, Stourbridge will be stronger, Bromsgrove will be a force. Everybody will improve.
“We need to improve too. We are not the surprise package now, like we were last season after we were promoted. We are there to be shot at. People know more about us and our players and know what to expect at Lye Meadow.
“We need to be ready for that and find ways to improve.”
Alvechurch will celebrate their achievements on Saturday at their presentation night. The player of the season awards will also be handed out.
Supporters are welcome to attend for the event which starts at 7pm.
Meanwhile, Lye Meadow will host the Bromsgrove Charity Minor Cup final on Sunday (4pm) when SSS Lions meet Feckenham Sunday.