GARY Hackett believes the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division will be tougher than ever this season.
The Glassboys kick-off another campaign on Saturday when they host Arlesey Town at Redditch United’s Valley Stadium.
Last year’s league leading scorer Drew Roberts and the experienced Jamie Hatch are among the visitors’ new signings and Hackett believes they will be one of several sides stronger this time around.
He said: “They are both very good forwards.
“In Drew Roberts they have the league’s leading scorer from last season and it means they can’t be underestimated.
“I think it’s going to be a tougher all round league this season.
“There are a lot of teams who perhaps disappointed last year who have strengthened and will be looking to improve. We are mindful of that.”
Stour completed their pre-season with a draw at Halesowen Town, where they battled back from three goals down to draw 3-3.
Hackett later admitted his side had received something of a “rude awakening”.
Off the pitch it’s been an unusually busy summer in terms of new players, with Luke Benbow, Chris Knight, Stuart Hendrie and Tom Turton all pitching up at Amblecote.
While last season’s sixth-placed finish and run to the FA Cup second round has made Amblecote an attractive proposition for players, Hackett has re-iterated the club will not be held to ransom.
He said: “You speak to some players at this time of year and the money they ask for is crazy.
“Sometimes it’s disappointing when you miss out on a player but it is no use agreeing to pay them what they want only to reach October and find you can’t afford them anymore.
“When I sign a player I want them to stay at the club till the end of April, not the end of October and as long as I’m manager things will stay that way.”
He added: “The aim for us is to keep on improving. We realise it will be a tough ask as last season was the best in Stourbridge’s history.
“But it’s also about continuing to improve off the pitch and building the club as a whole.”
While the Glassboys travel to Redditch for their first home fixture on Saturday, the club’s Bank Holiday Monday game against Barwell will be played at Halesowen Town with a 7.45pm kick-off.
Three of the club’s under-18s have been selected to attend trials for the English schoolboys squad.
Adam Ward, who has this year been promoted to the first team squad, Kieron Morris and Alistair McCue have all been called up.