SHORTWOOD United must tackle the leaders of Calor League Division One South and West on New Year’s Day.
Weather and a soggy pitch permitting, Meadowbank will play host to a rampant Cirencester Town side managed by Brian Hughes.
With his side top of the tree after Saturday’s victory at Bridgwater Town, Hughes has been the subject of envious inquiries as rivals attempt to decipher their winning formula.
And he points to the club’s treatment of 29-goal forward Lee Smith and ex-Arsenal starlet Jamie Edge – now at Hereford United – as examples of a caring philosophy paying off.
Hughes said: “I like to think we treat players properly at Cirencester, putting an arm round them when required and making sure they enjoy their football.
“Smithy is an example of someone who had fallen out of love with the game a little bit but is now enjoying himself, and you can only play to your potential if you’re happy on and off the pitch.
“He has been phenomenal for us in terms of the goals he has scored but we have been good to him.
“It was the same with Jamie Edge – he came to us on a bit of a low ebb but we got him smiling again.”
Hughes admits even he has been surprised by the rate of the club’s progress this term, but he is expecting a stern examination of his side’s title credentials in Nailsworth.
He said: “Twelve months ago we were wondering which league to play in and pondering the whole future of the club.
“All managers set off at the start of a season trying to do better than the last one, but I would be lying if I said I expected us to be top at the turn of the year.
“It’s a lovely position but we’re not setting any targets and we know it will be an extremely tough game at Shortwood.”