Feature: Behind the scenes at Rossington Main - Doncaster Rovers' opponents on Tuesday
There's a real glint in Lee Holmes' eye when he looks ahead to the visit of Doncaster Rovers.
So there should be.
For Tuesday night’s game will mark the culmination of weeks of preparation and planning for Rossington Main - and Holmes is hoping his club’s future starts here.
“I think we will surprise a lot of people,” grins Main’s player manager. “And that’s from the bottom of my heart.
“We’re going into pre-season with a genuine buzz around the club. There’s a different mentality here now, the players have bought into it.”
Rossington mean business and that they should be hosting this year’s annual ‘community friendly’ with Rovers could hardly be more apt, or more deserving.
It is not only at the Keepmoat Stadium where a new broom has swept clean this summer.
The former mining village has rallied around its football club to the extent that they became one of the best supported clubs in the Northern Counties East League last season. Attendances were up 75 per cent.
But that sense of community spirit has gone to another level during the off season as supporters, local business owners and volunteers alike have pitched in to raise the bar at Rossington, in every sense.
Their Oxford Street ground now boasts a new bar terrace and beer garden, children’s play area and improved car park. The players now have access to a gym on site.
They will also be able to call upon the services of a nutritionist and an analyst as they bid to better last term’s season of struggle in Division One.
Holmes and the club’s committee clearly have an eye on the long term too. Rossington Juniors have merged with Main to provide a very clear pathway for the best young players in the area.
Next week’s high profile clash with Rovers - which should attract a crowd in excess of 1,000 - provides the perfect showcase for the work going on at Rossington, a club now right at the heart of its community.
But Holmes is anxious that Main impress on the pitch as well as off it.
“Financially it’s massive for us,” said Holmes, a Rossington native who started out at Leeds United at the age of six and was at Ipswich Town when the Tractor Boys won the FA Youth Cup in 2005.
“As a manager and as a player, we’ve got to give as good an account of ourselves as humanly possible.
“We’ve already been in training since June 18. My lads have had fitness tests, fitness plans, everything physically possible.
“We’ve even arranged a friendly on the Saturday before against Staveley to make sure we’re not rabbits trapped in the headlights.
“We need to try and give a good account of ourselves in the hope we can maintain the fixture on an annual basis.
He added: “We’ve spent a lot of money on getting things right and we’re still doing a lot of work down at the ground to make sure the evening is a success for all the supporters, officials and players.
“The pitch is second to none. It’s immaculate, and it won’t be far off the quality on which they’re going to play week in week out at the Keepmoat Stadium.
“But it’s our pre-season as well, not just Doncaster Rovers’. We’ve got to take it just as serious as they will.
“We’re not going to prepare any different to any other game, and it’s a game we’re going to try and get a result.
“I genuinely think we will surprise a lot of people.
“We’re preparing very well, we’re ahead of schedule and we’ve brought in a lot of new faces.
“We’re using the Staveley and Doncaster games as a statement to be able to say ‘we’ve moved on’, ‘we’ve raised the bar this year’.
“The players who were here previously have accepted the bar has been raised and they’ve all come back fit and ready.”
In addition to their NCEL team, Rossington now also field a second team in the Doncaster Senior League, an under-19s team, and junior sides all the way from under-16s down to under-sevens.
“Two years ago the club merged the juniors and seniors into one team to create like a Rossington ‘super club’,” explained Holmes.
“It used to be Rossington Juniors and Rossington Main. I came through Rossington Juniors and I never even knew Rossington Main existed.
“Now the under-sevens already know about us. We’re all under the same badge.
“Our aim is to become a community club.
“We’ve not got masses amount of money to be able to buy players and pay players.
“We have to rely on an influx coming through our youth. So with the merger of the youth and the seniors it becomes a much clearer pathway.”
Holmes, a winger turned striker who boasts considerable experience on the local non-league circuit, scored his 200th goal for Rossington last season.
This term the 28-year-old plans to focus more on his managerial role.
“I’m trying to put my own stamp on it,” he said.
“We’ve set some long term goals out as a club on where we want to go.
“Last season we had injury problems, we were worrying about staying up and just thinking about fielding a team every week.
“It will be week-to-week targets for the players though. We’re trying to walk before we run.
“I’m extremely proud of how far the club has come, and a lot of that is down to Carl Stokes (chairman), Gerry Murden (president) and Ged Parsons (secretary),” he added.
“As manager I’m aiming to take the club to the highest possible level and I’m confident we can do that.”
Tickets for Tuesday night are priced £6 for adults and £3 for concessions and are available from both clubs.