Strevens Sets His Eyes On Becoming The Surprise Package

He won’t be the last manager to think it, and it’s almost certainly crossed the minds of most fans over the past few months.

Barrow, the team on nobody’s lips last summer, have given even the totally unfancied that little bit of belief.

With one well-known bookmaker back in June 2019, only six sides were less likely to do it.

Ian Evatt’s team weren’t quite the 5,000-1 Foxes, but odds in the region of 50-1 would have covered the price of a League Two season ticket for any brave Bariovian.

Eastleigh fans won’t be alone in logging on to check what they are priced at to pull it off.

Like Ian Evatt, Ben Strevens is hoping having that full first year under his belt may produce something astonishing.

“I think every club who aren’t being spoken about will look at what Barrow did last season and will get that little boost,” he told us in the latest summer feature.

“What they achieved was remarkable, and it came a few years after Macclesfield Town upset the odds as well.

“It’s funny, we played Barrow early last season and I wasn’t actually too impressed with them! But it soon became clear that it was their year, and they found a fantastic formula.

“I was thrilled for them when it was announced they were the champions. It would have been awful for them to miss out, and justice was done.

“It means no club can be discounted. The National League isn’t like most divisions, everyone knows how hard it is to call.

“Let’s go back a year. Three of the clubs many people had down for doing well were AFC Fylde, Chesterfield and Wrexham.

“One went down and the other two finished a few places above the relegation zone. It’s so unpredictable!

“We’re not saying we’re capable of doing this or that but it’s so refreshing to be a part of a competition where it’s not always the clubs people expect who can do something.”

If Eastleigh are going to challenge when we re-start, they will needs to improve according to their manager.

They were in 17th when the season came to a juddering halt.

The club’s board got together to discuss how they can push forward when the all-clear is given to open the doors again.

One thing decided was a lick of paint in the form of a brand new club crest. The modern Spitfire emblem on the front of the shirt needs to be soaring.

Strevens added: “Last season was a little disappointing.

“At times we showed what a good team we can be, but on other occasions we didn’t rise to the challenge.

“I have been here 18 months now and I feel we’re starting to put an identity to what we’re trying to do.

“It’s been a few years since (former backer) Stewart Donald left and the board have done a wonderful job in getting the new structure in place.

“The new crest and kit looks superb and a lot of hard work is going on behind the scenes.

“We’re looking forward to getting stuck in.”

The club have made a number of new signings, Strevens “excited” in particular with the arrival of Reading striker Ben House.

Goalkeeper Joe McDonnell arrives, as does Northern Ireland U21 international Pierce Bird.

There won’t be much more activity, according to Strevens who thinks his team are in good shape ahead of their return to action.

So which other clubs have raised the eyebrow of the 40-year-old former midfielder with their summer business?

“Two clubs,” he said. “One of them I won the league with.

“Dagenham are putting a good case together to be up there. Daryl McMahon has signed well and they have a bit of backing.

“So do Stockport County. They have signed some very good players - when you can add the captain of the side who have just lifted the title, you know they are going to be up there.

“For us? We’ll we’re going to be a bit younger - but I don’t think we will be the only ones.

“Budgets across the board will be closely looked after because of the pandemic. That is totally understandable, and it’s not a bad thing.

“Football is changing, I’m sure it will go back to what it was one day, but I have noticed a change already.

“Clubs are being careful after Covid, and rightly so.

“It could see things level out a bit and again it means that a club people didn’t expect could put a real challenge in.

“We’d love that to be us of course, but we know exactly how demanding this league is and we have got to be ready for it.”

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