SLIMBRIDGE are ready to play in the Southern League.

The club have applied for promotion for the first time since they worked their way back up to the Hellenic Premier League and will be going all out for the title this season.

Slimbridge withdrew from the Southern League Division One Midlands just one month before the season began in 2007 due to fears they would not be able to operate at that level and reverted to the Northern Senior League before climbing back up the ladder.

However, manager Leon Sterling, who won the Hellenic League title as a player with the club and took over as manager two-and-a-half years ago after three years as James Cole’s assistant, believes they are now in a more stable position to cope with the step up.

Slimbridge were third in the table heading into the Boxing Day fixtures and have been in similar positions at the same stage over the last two seasons before finishing sixth and fifth respectively.

Sterling said: “This is our third season in the Hellenic Premier, so it’s been a learning process collectively, and it’s a natural progression to try and win the league now.

“We’ve applied along with six or seven teams so if we win it we’ll look to play at the next level.

“We nearly won it in our first season but we weren’t ready and now three years down the line the club and players are ready if we go to the next level.”

If Slimbridge do go up, it would be without paying a penny in wages to any of their players – a policy brought in after the first team disbanded five years ago.

“Myself, the committee and the chairman feel that there is no need because 80 per cent of clubs don’t pay at this level,” said Sterling.

“They are local lads and are happy to play at this level, but maybe if we go up things would change.”

Sterling is on the lookout for a new goalkeeper following the departure of Dave Evans to Cirencester recently, although Adam Clatworthy has gone the other way on loan as part of the deal to fill the void in the meantime.

Slimbridge lost influential players such as Mike Bryant and Jamie Martin to Yate Town and Shortwood United respectively in the summer, but Sterling has brought in a number of new faces this year and is confident they will take the side’s title challenge down to the wire.

He said: “Losing Dave was a blow but these things happen when you don’t pay players and we don’t stand in anyone’s way.

“I’ve lost a few through retirement or players going to a higher level and I didn’t want to lose them, but I’ve tried to replace them with better or same quality.

“I’ve got 18 lads who have served me well at this point so I’m happy with this squad until the rest of the season.”

Slimbridge have no game this weekend.