DARREN Manning admits what Hullbridge Sports achieved last season is only just starting to sink in.

Sports are looking forward to their first ever campaign in the Isthmian North after winning the Essex Senior League title.

And Manning’s side have discovered that Witham Town will be their first opponents in the new term after the fixtures were announced last night.

“It all sunk in when the fixtures were announced last night,” said Manning.

“We achieved so much last year and it’s weird to see that we’re not playing teams like Clapton, but sides such as Canvey Island, Grays Athletic and Coggeshall Town.

“After seeing the fixtures come out, there was a chance to reflect on winning the title last season.

“We have to play everyone twice over the course of the season, so it didn’t matter to me who we got first.

“But I did always want to start the season at home because it’s our first season in the Isthmian North and it’s going to be a historic day for the club.”

Hullbridge’s first outing since beating Stanway Rovers on the final day of last term to clinch the title will take place tomorrow as they face White Ensign.

Brett Munyard’s White Ensign side enjoyed an impressive first campaign in the Eastern Counties League Division One South.

And Manning believes this weekend’s friendly is the ideal way to start pre-season.

“Brett is a good friend of mine and we know they are a very good side,” added the Hullbridge chief.

“We are going to take two sides and everyone will get 45 minutes on the pitch.

“We’re looking forward to the game and it will be a good test.

“Brett is a very good manager and I’m certain that he will manage at a much higher level than he is currently at one day.

“I’m tipping White Ensign to be in contention for promotion in the upcoming campaign because they have so many players in their squad that are comfortable at a higher level.”

Manning and his new-look backroom staff have been putting the Hullbridge players through their paces in training.

And Manning is pleased with their attitude since returning to the pitch.

“The boys have come back a lot fitter than I thought they would,” admitted Manning.

“I’m very pleased with how they have looked after themselves and they deserve a lot of credit.

“The same spirit is there after winning the title last season.

“The new members of the coaching staff have also come in and said there is a buzz, which is great.”