CHIPPENHAM Town manager Gary Horgan is preparing his team for what many have already described as “the toughest and most competitive National League South ever.”

And after the National League fixtures were released on Wednesday afternoon, Horgan’s men now know in which order they will face a daunting set of teams.

The Bluebirds – fresh off the back of one of the highest league finishes in club history – will take on former Football League clubs such as Yeovil Town and Torquay United, as well as big hitters in the non-league scene such as Maidstone United, Dartford and Worthing at various points this term.

Starting the upcoming season at home to newly-promoted Aveley, Chippenham take on Havant and Waterlooville away prior to clashes with Torquay, Tonbridge Angels, and Braintree.

Assessing the first five games, Horgan said: “It’s a tough start, but not one that we didn’t expect.

“Every manager that I’ve spoken to or anything I’ve read has said this will be the toughest and most competitive National League South since its inception – and certainly since we’ve been involved.

“Aveley came up last year and, to an extent, will be an unknown quantity. And then we go away to Havant and Waterlooville who are notoriously big spenders, a big team in Torquay after that, and then its teams from last year in Tonbridge and Braintree.

“It’s a tough start, but it would have been a tough start no matter what because there are no easy games this season.”

With Chippenham’s first pre-season clash set for Monday, July 10, against Yate Town, the Bluebirds’ boss has been hard at work supplementing his squad with a couple of new faces.

Attacking full-back Freddie Grant has been added in the past fortnight, along with central midfielder Luke Spokes.

Horgan says he will be placing less emphasis on results over the next six weeks, instead trying to allow his group to form strong bonds while understanding his own key messages.

The Chippenham boss said: “We’ve effectively got a brand new team.

“It’s well known that we lost some of the core group who had been here for a number of years, so we’ve had to replace them, bed the new players in, and give them new ideas while looking to gel the group.

“We’ll be using pre-season like we did last year – as an exercise to get minutes into players and the chance to put ideas and principles across. It’s a chance to tell the players what we want from them.

“I said it last year, but there’s nothing won or lost in pre-season, so we’ll be trying to get as much out if it as we can, and we’ll set our goals after that.”