Ambition has got Oakham United a long way in the past two years and that is not about to change just because they are moving up a league.
United’s promotion into the United Counties League Division One was confirmed on Thursday night and now they have set their sights on being the best club at that standard in the area.
Oakham manager Wayne Oldaker said: “If we can be the top side in the area in that league, out of Bourne and Blackstones, that will be a big success for us. If we can match what Raf has done at Bourne in his first season, with a young squad, then we will be happy. What he has done is our blueprint for next season.”
After a difficult start the Wakes finished 10th in the UCL Division One under Rafa Mazzarella, thanks to a strong second half to the season.
Stamford-based Blackstones were just the opposite, they started well before going on a run of more than 20 games without a victory.
The Tractor Boys won the PDFL Premier Division with relative ease this season, and thanks to tireless efforts off the pitch by the club’s committee and volunteers to get their new Barleythorpe Road ground up to speed met all the criteria to move up - a truly phenomenal effort considering they were playing on a school playing field just 18 months ago.
And Oldaker is confident his team will be able to compete at the higher level.
He said: “I have always said I think the top six sides in the Peterborough Premier would be competitive in the UCL.
“We will look to get a couple of new faces in but I think the players who have got us here deserve to have a go at it themselves. We would never bring in somebody just for the sake of it. They have to fit into the squad and be better than what we have already got.”
Like all the other UCL outfits Oakham will charge admission to matches next season to help them meet the increased costs of competing in the league, such as paying officials. However Oldaker said there will be no change in policy in regards to paying players. But he said he is ‘fending off the wolves’ at the moment who are trying to tempt away his star players.
The top targets are centre back Matt Holland and striker Lewis Leckie, who scored 17 goals in 15 games after joining Oakham at Christmas.
But he says so far they are set to stay together for the new challenge.
Oldaker said: “The players won’t get paid here and there are some teams who have some ridiculous budgets and we have to compete with that, but all the lads want to give it a go.”
Oakham will be back in training on June 23, at 7pm at Barleythorpe Road. Anyone interested in playing for the club is invited to come down.
Oldaker said last year he had to work hard to convince players to step down a level to play in the PDFL Premier division, bringing in Adam Rothery, Billy Oliver and Holland, who all have UCL experience. But he believes the fact they did that has set Oakham up perfectly to make the step up because they have a backbone of players who have a proven track record in step six football.
In fact Oakham are suddenly in demand. The club has had inquiries from half a dozen players about joining the squad and have had about 20 approaches to play friendly matches in pre-season. The first two pre-season games will be at home, first up are Spalding United on July 14, 7.30pm ko followed by Peterborough Northern Star at 3pm on July, 18.
A further four games will be confirmed nearer the time.