Colne boss Steve Cunningham has his eyes on promotion after reaching the Evo-Stik First Division North play-offs last season.
On the back of their North West Counties Premier Division title success, the Reds finished fifth in their debut season at this level, only to lose out in the play-off semi-final at Farsley Celtic.
Cunningham has added to his squad, and could add further before Saturday’s opening game at home to Atherton Collieries, and he can’t wait for the season to start: “We enjoyed last season and had a taste of it, and we want a bigger bite now.
“We want to go up. Promotion has to be the aim.
“Getting to the play-offs has spurred us on.
“We’ve strengthened well I feel – we did well last year, but tired towards the end of the season.
“We just lacked that bit of depth and quality, and felt if we could identify four or five players to make us stronger, with more experience, we could have a good go at it this year.”
Cunningham has landed forwards Michael Fish and Danny Wilkins, former Burnley youngster Waqas Azam on loan from Chorley, as well as goalkeeper Hakan Burton, and winger Jacob Gregory from First Division North champions Lancaster City.
And he could have more signings up his sleeve yet: “We’re looking strong, and one of the most pleasing things was keeping the players I’ve got as a lot of clubs were after them.
“I might have a couple of surprises yet as well!”
There is the potential for four promotion places this season, with two going up automatically, one in the play-offs, and the best third-place side across the equivalent six divisions.
Cunningham expects Colne to be in the hunt: “South Shields and Scarborough, with their finances and resources should be up there, and after that there could be 15 or so clubs who can challenge, including Colne, Clitheroe, Hyde, Trafford, Glossop, Droylsden, Tadcaster...
“We have to be confident we can have a good start.
“That will be important. We didn’t last year and had to play catch up.
“But it’s a tough opener against Colls, we’ve had some good battles with them and they are on the back of following us as North West Counties champions.”
And Cunningham’s ambitions for the club go beyond getting out of this league – he feels the Reds can try and restore the glory days of their predecessors Colne Dynamoes, who won the FA Vase in 1988 and went as far as becoming Northern Premier League champions in 1989–90, only to be refused promotion to the Football Conference, before folding that summer.
He urged the town to continue to get behind the club: “The Dynamoes era was very successful, but we are a different entity. We have gone from strength to strength and averaged crowds of 300 last season.
“We had 4/500 on some games, and if we can emulate that...there is no reason why we can’t emulate what Dynamoes achieved – the higher we go, we can attract bigger crowds.
“The interest is there, we just need to be winning.
“We have to start well and market that.
“We can really push on if the town backs us.”
Colne rounded off their pre-season friendlies with a resounding 6-0 win over Yorkshire neighbours Steeton at the Utility Renewals Stadium on Saturday.
The Reds got off to a flying start with two goals in the first 10 minutes.
Wilkins laid on the first goal with a run into the area and a pull back for Simon Nangle to fire home from six yards.
Then Adam Morning created the second with a searching cross from the left wing for Phil Dean to apply the finishing touch at the far post.
With half time approaching, Chris Lynch’s cross was only half-cleared and Fish fired home the loose ball to give Colne a three-goal lead.
In the second half, the Steeton keeper came out of his area and was left stranded as Lee Pugh lobbed the ball into the far corner of the empty net for Colne’s fourth goal.
On 76 minutes,Colne’s Steve Bonilla worked himself an opening on the edge of the area and found the back of the net with an unstoppable shot to stretch the Reds’ lead to five goals.
And it was 6-0 when Spencer Jordan netted with a 20-yard shot.
In the closing minutes, Ben Clarkson made a run into the Colne area and squeezed his shot inside the near post to give Steeton a deserved consolation goal in an entertaining game.
Colne kick off the new season tomorrow with a home game against newly promoted AthertonCollieries (kick-off 3 p.m.), and then travel to Mossley on Tuesday night with a 7-45 p.m. kick-off.
Report from Dave Priestley