SWINDON College Old Boys may be starting the new season in a lower league but they have big ambitions according to new head coach Mark Lea.

Old Boys struggled last season in Southern Counties North and resume their league season in the Berks/Bucks & Oxon Premier following releagation but harbour hopes of an immediate return to the higher level.

A shake-up off the field at the club and re-locating their training base to Ridgeway School has seen numbers at pre-season swell and give cause to Lea’s renewed optimism.

The Nationwide Pavilion-based club have also recruited a couple of players from local teams in higher tiers. Damon Murphy a second row from Devizes, Matthew Allen at centre and Ross Saville at fly-half, both from Swindon RFC, have come in to offer compeititon in the first team.

Those recruits, in addition to the exposure many second XV players got at Southern Counties level, are the basis for Lea’s belief he can see Old Boys through a positive season.

“We’ve had a big change at the club really, we have a new chairman, Darren Astley, it’s very much a change in the guard with a lot fresh ideas,” said Lea.

“Last season we had a real struggle, with a lot of injuries, the second team had to feed the firsts which meant they suffered and a lot of players drifted away. Darren’s brought a lot of energy, and me and Martin Lloyd as Director of Rugby back into the club. We’d taken a couple of years break but have come back with a lot more energy as well.

“The result of that is at training at Ridgeway we’ve huge numbers at training, well over 40 which is fantastic, there is real buzz to do well this season.

“The one thing that was good last season, because of the situation we were in, we got more strength in depth at a higher level, and we’ve recruited really well, so now we’re in a stronger position.

“I think the ambitions of the players is to gain promotion, we should be looking to do that and be competitive generally.

“The actual focus this year, for Darren and the club is to ensure the seconds are playing regular competitive rugby, with a lot of focus on them in training.”

Previous chairman Martin Peaple has moved into a secretarial position and Lea was keen to pay tribute for the work he has done at the club.

“Martin Peaple has done so much for the club we didn’t want to lose his experience, we recognise the great amount of work he did. It’s good that his experience and his commitment is still around the club in an official capacity.”

Old Boys start their pre-season programme with their firsts and seconds travelling for friendlies against Corsham today.