Stewart Airdrie firmly believes that Barnoldswick Town can mount a top six challenge this term after bolstering his squad over the summer.
The Silentnight Stadium boss has worked tirelessly to strengthen his ranks ahead of the new Hallmark Security Premier Division campaign and the outcome appears very encouraging.
While results in pre-season may not reflect that - with defeats to Clitheroe, Rochdale Sacred Heart, Charnock Richard, Colne and Salts providing the tapestry for their preparations - Airdrie has key additions to bring in to the fray.
The club will be without Micky Woodvine for the season but they’ve added quality in Robert Grimes, Liam Blades, Jonny Hodgkinson, Alex Ralph, Lewis Jordan, Mark Coyne, Tom Jackson and Joe Garvin, who has returned following a spell at Colne.
“We needed to strengthen over the summer,” said Airdrie. “We played a silly number of games at the back end of last season and we had nothing on the bench. Everybody was dead on their feet. That stressed the importance of building a good squad.
“We’ve entered a team in to the Galaxy League which will help because it allows players to get some minutes in midweek, it keeps people ticking over and ups their fitness.
“We finished ninth last year so a top 10 finish is a must. With the players that we’ve signed, if we can keep them all fit, then the top six is certainly achievable.
“There are some strong teams in this league now but we fancy our chances.”
He added: “We beat most of the top teams last season but our concentration slipped against the teams lower down the table.
“That is what cost us last year and maybe that was down to inexperience. We’ll be looking to push on a bit this season.
“I think we are a lot stronger than last term. Some of the lads had a season to see what this level is all about which will stand them in good stead.
“They’re another year wiser now. It’s going to be tough but we’re raring to go.”
Town play their first competitive game tomorrow when they entertain Dunston UTS in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup which starts at 3 p.m..
Their league campaign kicks off midweek as they host Squires Gate on Tuesday with kick off at 7-45 p.m.
Three away games follow, against AFC Liverpool on August 13th, AFC Darwen on Wednesday, August 17th and Padiham on Wednesday, August 24th.
The opening month culminates with a home game against newcomers New Mills on Saturday, August 27th and a derby versus Nelson at Victoria Park on Tuesday, August 30th.
“We’ve not got a good record in the FA Cup at all,” said Airdrie. “In fact I think we’ve got one of the worst records in the region.
“We always seem to get handed tough ties and this one is no different but we’ll be hoping to give a better account of ourselves this time. We want to try and get a bit further in the competition this year.”