City of Peterborough believe they are competing in the strongest East Premier A Division in history.
City kick off their campaign at Old Loughtonians on Saturday. They are two of the seven former National League teams taking part in the top-flight this season.
City manager Graham Finding said: “No-one can remember a stronger looking East Premier League, but our players are looking forward to what is certain to be an exciting quality game of hockey every week.
“All the ex-National League sides will feel that they could, and should be, pushing for the league title and promotion, yet it is very hard to even predict who will end up in the two relegation spots, such will be the calibre of the league.
“Our target will be a top four finish which means a considerable improvement on last season’s seventh-place and we are full of confidence having added three to four strong players to the squad from last season.
“We must improve our away form though to have any chance of realising our ambition. That’s why we deliberately organised six of our seven pre-season friendlies away from Bretton Gate.
“We couldn’t have had a tougher start though. Old Loughts are a giant of the game and it was a shock to see them relegated last season.”
City have recruited Austrlian midfield/forward Robbie Muir from the Gordon North Sydney club on the recommendation of former player Steve Gregory who coaches and plays in Sydney. Muir won’t arrive in time for opening day.
City-based National League star Gareth Andrew will again coach the team and midfielder Ross Booth will again be skipper . City have also attracted former Long Sutton and Wisbech defender Andy Shore to the club as well as Jordan Heald, a forward from Loughborough Students.
City are just as pleased to have longer-serving players Adam Wilson and Tom Hagues fully fit and they are expecting big things from rapidly-improving youngster Ross Ambler who scored five goals in a 7-3 win at Northampton Saints in the club’s last friendly of the season. Wilson and Shane Vincent also scored.
Wisbech were relegated to the Premier B Division at the end of last season.
They have been joined at that level by Spalding who won Division One and will now play in the second tier of the East League for the first time in their history.
Spalding start with a tough game at Cambridge University. City Of Peterborough seconds host Letchworth at Bretton Gate (2.30pm) in the same division.
Spalding are a thriving club as the ladies first team also won an East League promotion last season.
They will compete in Division One North this season alongside fellow promotion-winners City of Peterborough, and Wisbech.
City Ladies also start their East League campaign on Saturday. They’ve lost some key players in the summer, most notably free-scoring veteran Lyn Tancred, who has moved to Long Sutton, and all-action midfielder Claire Steels who is concentrating on her impressive athletics career.
City start with a home game against Norwich Dragons at Bretton Gate (1pm).