Nobody is denying that the FA Trophy is not near the top of Paul Carden or AFC Telford United’s list of priorities.
The league table, and the very fact Carden was appointed this week to ensure the club steer clear of bottom spot and escape National League North peril, shows exactly where the Bucks’ priorities lie.
What that doesn’t mean is that Telford will be effectively writing off tomorrow’s 400-mile round trip to Felixstowe & Walton United, of two divisions below.
Indeed, next Tuesday’s crunch league six-pointer against Guiseley – Carden’s first league game, first home game in front of rejuvenated fans and a huge contest at the foot of the table – might be ‘easier’ for players to gee themselves up for.
But Carden will doubtless be taking note and how the squad he adopted prepare for and handle tomorrow’s Trophy tie, which they go into as considerable favourites.
It’s not a glamour fixture, but it will not be one for the faint-hearted, either. For Felixstowe, 15th in the Isthmian League Division One North, it is being billed as one of the biggest days in their history. The hosts, managed by former Torquay manager Stuart Boardley, have held a daily countdown to the fixture on their social media pages.
Telford are not writing progression off. The Bucks travel down to Suffolk this evening and will stay overnight to reduce travel on matchday and help players prepare for the tie in better shape.
Carden and his new assistant Carl Baker – the 38-year-old midfielder who has been signed as a player and could go straight into the side tomorrow – have held two training sessions at Lilleshall this week and will begin to have an early grasp on their troops.
But tomorrow’s fixture will provide the new boss a real eye-opener to the players he has inherited. First impressions count regardless of the setting, this is an important opportunity Telford players must grasp if they want to remain part of the new boss’ plans.
Likewise Carden will not want to start his Bucks tenure as victim of a giant-killing to opposition from two divisions below. A pocket of hardy Telford fans will travel expecting to see a confident win and the Liverpudlian chief will look to provide that.
Experienced Bucks regulars such as Ross White, Adam Walker, Elliott Durrell and Jason Oswell, among others, know that little goes before them in terms of reputation and will need to impress their new manager.
Striker Oswell, 29, has four goals in seven games for Telford and appears to have ignited his campaign. For the experienced frontman it remains a chance to continue his fine recent record and extend his scoring spree.
Carden has thinned the numbers already. Kory Roberts, Liam Ravenhill and Tom Sparrow loans have ended. Fortune Maphosa has been released – the remaining Bucks have an early chance to make a statement.