NEW Eastleigh skipper Daryl McMahon will not be daunted by the huge weight of expectation piled on the Spitfires’ shoulders.
The Stoneham Lane club have made no secret of their lofty ambitions, investing in 11 pedigree players this summer to add to quality signings like McMahon, Damian Scannell, Lee Peacock, Gary Elphick and Mitchell Nelson who arrived towards the end of 2011/12.
They open the new season at Boreham Wood tomorrow saddled with the ‘4/1 favourites’ tag for the Blue Square Bet South title, just ahead of Nicky Forster’s Dover Athletic (9/2).
But McMahon, who has taken over the captain’s armband from Tom Jordan, has every faith that Ian Baird’s purpose-built promotion squad will deliver.
“It’s all coming together at the right time,” he said. “There’s so much quality in the side.
“Last week against Reading we were without Osei Sankofa, Damian Scannell, Mark Hughes and Gary Elphick, four very good players, but we still had a really strong team.
“I played with some top players at Farnborough, but the difference here is the strength in depth.
“Come tomorrow there will be one or two players left out who would walk into any other side at this level.
“We’ve got the right ingredients and you can’t hide how good this team is.
“I can’t imagine there’s a better squad of players in this league.
“It’s up to us now to play for the gaffer, Wilks (assistant manager Shaun Wilkinson) and each other.
“We all want to win the league – it’s huge – and we’re not going to shy away from that fact. It’s what we’re here for.
“When I signed for the club, it was all about this season.”
As one of the first big names enlisted for Eastleigh’s ‘project promotion’, McMahon was unlucky enough to be involved in their 6-1 trouncing at Boreham Wood in March.
It was a particularly painful experience for the 28-year-old who had been player/assistant manager at Meadow Park prior to joining Eastleigh, but the Irishman insists it left no lasting scars.
“It was easily my worst time with Eastleigh, but I don’t ever think about it,” said the former Leyton Orient midfielder.
“Boreham Wood have good people there like (defender) Luke Garrard who’s a good friend of mine and holds them together.
“But I don’t care that I used to play for them, I just want to go back and win.
“I live in Loughton, Essex, about 18 miles away, so it’s like a home game for me.”
Eastleigh will not be at full strength. Dale Binns is still on honeymoon, Sankofa is back in training after a foot injury, but not quite ready to play, and Glen Southam has a slight hamstring strain.
Worst news of all, however, is that former Barnet skipper Hughes has a broken foot bone, potentially sidelining the gritty midfielder for eight weeks.
“It’s devastating for him and us,” said Baird. “His foot’s in a cast with a boot on.
“It’s not the ideal way to start, but sometimes you can’t legislate for bits of bad luck like we’ve had with Hughesy.”
Eastleigh entertain Basingstoke Town on Tuesday and Weston -super-Mare next Saturday before paying a Bank Holiday Monday visit to Stuart Ritchie’s Havant & Waterlooville.