BRIGHTLINGSEA Regent captain Matt Cripps says he and his team-mates will relish proving their doubters wrong again this season.

The R's are one of the less-fancied sides in the BetVictor Isthmian League premier division and, if the last couple of years are anything to go by, they will be tipped by many as possible relegation candidates in 2019/20.

Their comparatively meagre budget, in stark contrast to their bigger and more-established step three rivals, means they are punching above their weight at such a high level.

However, Cripps believes his side deserve more respect and should never be written off as 'little old Brightlingsea'.

“After a couple of years at this level, we know what it's all about," said the commanding centre-half, who will be returning to one of his former club tonight when Regent play a pre-season friendly at FC Clacton (kick-off 7.45pm).

“People underestimate us and every year we're written off and tipped as one of the sides to struggle and go down.

“But we get great pleasure proving the doubters wrong and like surprising people.

“It puts fire in our bellies and I don't just mean the players. I mean everyone at the club.

“So much work has gone on behind the scenes, in terms of improving the ground and bringing in funds to protect the playing budget.

“That's why it's so satisfying for us all – the players and also those off the pitch – to prove people wrong.

“Even the year we won the league we'd been written off by some.

“People talk about our budget and say it's 'little old Brightlingsea'.

“But in our first year we stayed up comfortably; then last year we were only a few points off the play-offs and still in with a shout until six or seven games from the end."

Brightlingsea have played three pre-season friendlies so far, losing 2-1 at Long Melford, thrashing Little Oakley 4-0 and then going down 1-0 at home to Southern League premier central division side Lowestoft Town on Saturday.

And Cripps believes things are shaping up nicely as preparations continue for the big premier division kick-off at Margate on August 10.

“We've brought in lads that are hungry to prove themselves at this level," he said.

“I know that feeling and can relate to the way they feel.

“They've all fitted in well and I'm confident they can step up.

“The core of the squad has been here for a while and then there are others who have worked their way through the leagues.

“We did well last season. We held our own and there were only two or three occasions when we really came unstuck.

“I think the main thing I've learnt about this division is workrate and the importance of being 'on it' in every game.

“You have to remember we're up against sides containing former Football League and National League players.

“That's the quality we're facing and if we turn up and three or four players have an off-day, we won't get away with it.”