HOLLAND FC manager Paul Phelan believes his ambitious team have "moved to the next level".

The coastal outfit are back in training after the lockdown restrictions and looking forward to the new Thurlow Nunn League campaign.

They have added new signings but also retained all bar two of last season's successful first division south squad.

Phelan believes it bodes well and said: "I'm optimistic about next season.

"We've certainly improved our squad, strengthening the spine of the team, and taken it to the next level.

"After a long break and with new players on board, we've really managed to freshen things up.

"We've strengthened in the right areas and I'm in a very positive mood.

"In addition to that, the boys are working hard in training and there's a great atmosphere among the group.

"Our fitness levels have improved dramatically and we're definitely on the right track."

Holland have signed midfielder Connor McLaughlin and striker Sean Bartlett, both of whom spent last season at Tendring neighbours Harwich and Parkeston.

Former Brightlingsea Regent wide man Sean Hobbins has also joined the ranks, as has left-sided player Reuben Cowler.

Holland have also retained everyone from last season, with the exception of Matt Gray, who has left to join the Army.

Long-serving club man Rob Batten has reverted to his previous role as assistant manager and the club have their first friendly pencilled in for August 1.

They entertain Wormingford that day (kick-off 2pm).

After that they host Tiptree Heath on August 4 and visit Needham Market on August 8 before entertaining Ransomes on August 12 and Cornard United on August 15.

The schedule continues with trips to Whitton United on August 22 and Brantham Athletic on August 25 before a home clash with Leiston on August 29.

"We've got a good selection and some tough friendly fixtures," added Phelan, whose players returned for training at the start of July.

"It's all go.

"We'll continue preparing properly and I don't want to get caught out in terms of fitness.

"We have the ability to win a lot of matches but fitness is going to be key.

"It was very important to keep players from last season.

"In fact, that was just as important as signing new ones.

"I'm buzzing and looking forward to us getting going and hopefully making a strong start.

"We want to hit the ground running and show our intent and ambition."

Terry Rymer has taken over as the club's reserve-team manager.