Matt Francis and his team-mates are gearing up for the new campaign.
Brighton & Hove Albion Powerchair Football Club (BHAPFC) start their latest WFA National League Premiership campaign this weekend – with the team hoping to build on last season’s fifth-place finish.
BHAPFC are one of two powerchair teams run by Albion in the Community and compete in the country’s top division.
The team narrowly missed out on the top three finish last season that would have guaranteed European competition.
They face a tough opening weekend of games, including matches against three of the teams that finished above them last season, and recently-promoted Sevenoaks, who they beat in a friendly earlier this month.
The majority of powerchair fixtures take place in Nottingham because of its central location, although Albion fans could have the chance to watch BHAPFC in action later in the season, provided they are drawn at home in the cup.
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Matt Francis captains the team and is confident they can build on their encouraging form of last season and challenge for a top three-place.
A rule change means players can begin using a new type of chair and according to Francis, much of pre-season has been spent fine-tuning the squad’s approach to the new equipment.
He said, “We have been working on a variety of different tactics focused around the new chairs and how to set up.
“I think this is going to change the game massively because with the new chair, you can hit the ball so much harder meaning you can change offensive shape as well as defensive shape.”
On a personal level, Francis is hoping to keep his place in the England training squad and secure a spot in the national team ahead of the World Cup later this year.
Before that, however, is the small matter of the new season with BHAPFC. And despite Francis’ international recognition, BHAPFC are far from a one-man team.
Last season, Lewis Hammans and Greg Baxter were joint top scorers for Brighton in their Premiership games with 25 goals apiece, while the strength of the squad continues to improve.
But does their captain think a European place is a realistic target? “We are a very young team and other teams have a lot more experience, but we are definitely technically good enough.”
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