Stags targeting immediate return to Premier Division
ASHTEAD Cricket Club's aim this season is to bounce straight back to the Surrey Championship Premier Division.
After two years in Surrey's top division, the Stags were relegated last season after an indifferent campaign.
But captain John Vaughan-Davies has told the Advertiser that the focus is to get back into the big time at the first time of asking.
He said: "Obviously going straight back up is what we would like to do, that's the goal, but it's going to be hard work.
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"Going down to Division One is not a massive difference.
"It looks like quite a strong league and the facilities will still be very good, the sides are pretty strong so it's not a drastic drop really.
"It's got to be a little bit easier, I hope it is anyway, but we're not looking at it like that."
Vaughan-Davies will have to do without the services of young batsman Dominic Sibley, who sprang onto the scene last year with a string of outstanding displays as he will be playing for Whitgift School.
"We have lost a couple of guys," said Vaughan-Davies, "including Dom Sibley, who we can't use on Saturdays because he's playing for his school.
"But we have gained a couple as well. Andrew Roberts, our overseas player from 2008 and 2009 has returned and the side is looking stronger, but quite young as well
"We have been training since January and we're optimistic for the season. We've done all we can to prepare, it's just about executing it now."
One of the main additions to the Ashtead line-up this season is a full-time coach in the form of Stuart Cope, who is part of the Surrey Cricket Board at the Oval.
Vaughan-Davies has said that Cope's introduction has "taken the weight" off his shoulders as captain and means he can "focus on his batting".
Cope believes that he can help the club to promotion.
He said: "Being brutally honest, the club is very well run behind the scenes, but the reason they got relegated was probably the playing side of things lacked a little bit of professionalism.
"It was about putting a programme together that the guys could buy into and we've instilled rules and responsibilities to try and make things more professional.
"I would be disappointed if we did not get promoted back to the Premier Division, but the first six weeks, when we will be without all the university guys, will be crucial. If we can get four or five wins in I will be happy, because once we get all the guys back we will have a very strong squad."