THE managers of the Isle of Wight’s three Sydenhams Wessex clubs all go into the start of the new season today (Saturday) with renewed vim and vigour, quiet confidence and a set of realistic aims.

In the Premier, Cowes Sports, under new boss Steve Rutter, will be working hard to avoid the stress of another relegation dogfight, while in Division 1, Newport and East Cowes Vics aim to improve on their top half finishes with strong promotion pushes.

Rutter did not dress up the scale of his side’s challenges ahead.

“We’ve had a very good pre-season. The lads have worked hard and pushed themselves to get fit,” he said.

“The challenge I’ve had is enticing players to join us from Wessex League clubs. If I could get two or three new faces in, it would be great, but it gets harder to do that as we get ever closer to the start of the season.

“There are a couple of areas I’d like to work on and improve.

“I’d like us to tighten up at the back, for one, and cut down on the goals we concede and make us a harder team to beat.

“We also need an out-an-out goalscorer and we need a little bit of bite in midfield — someone with an older head, with maturity and experience.

“The players in the squad are developing well, but they need self-confidence and belief they can get a result.

“Over the last two seasons it has been a scrap. I’d like us to be in mid-table — not scrapping at the bottom, with survival going down to the wire.”

Newport’s Andy Sampson, who play Verwood Town in Division 1 (kick-off 1pm) was upbeat about his side’s chances of going up, following their relegation from the Premier two seasons ago.

With a good pre-season and the return of key players from injury, plus new signings, Brading Town’s former goalkeeper, Cam Farley, and the return of Charlie Urry, Sampson will aim to build on their form towards the end of the last campaign.

“I think we’re good enough to push for promotion — certainly top four,” Sampson added.

“It will be a tough season, but one I’m really looking forward to. The experience the squad gained last season, particular for the younger players, was invaluable.

“The lads are working hard, confident and buzzing.”

Vics chief, Steve Brougham, was much more circumspect about how his side will fare after finishing tenth last term.

“We’ll be fine. We have a young side and I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen in pre-season, but we need to improve in certain areas.

“We need to be harder to beat and I want us to play with more energy.

“If we can improve on our position last season, I’ll be pleased.

“I think we will surprise a few teams.”

                                        OPENING FIXTURES

Today (Saturday) — Sydenhams Wessex Premier: Alresford Town v Cowes Sports; Division 1: Newport v Verwood; Ringwood Town v East Cowes Vics.

Tuesday — Division 1: Newport v United Services Portsmouth.

Wednesday — Premier: Portchester v Cowes Sports.