The season has only just finished, but effervescent Colne boss Steve Cunningham can’t wait to get his teeth into the new campaign!
And the Reds chief is highly optimistic about his exciting young side’s chances in the new-look Northern Premier League West, as he eyes a promotion push.
Colne agonisingly missed out on a play-off place on goal difference after a narrow defeat to champions South Shields on the last day of the season.
But nine of 11 key men have already committed themselves to the cause for next term, with Cunningham confident of tying up the rest of his squad, leasing his summer recruitment to searching for only a new centre back, winger and a striker.
He said: “At the start of last season we were quite optimistic, after being in the play-offs the season before, but I lost my two assistants to Padiham, and 10 players, a large number of which also went to Padiham.
“It was a tough time, a transitional period, and I think we won two of our first 18 games, which was poor.
“But in November, we changed the ethos and profile of player we wanted, going for young, pacy players, and all of a sudden, we lost four of our last 22 and only just missed out on the play-offs.”
Cunningham landed the likes Alex Curran, who went on to be named the division’s Young Player of the Year, and third top scorer, Oliver Crankshaw, Brad Knox and Waqas Azam, and he explained: “We were fantastic in the second half of the season, we signed Alex, Oli, Waqas, Brad, and put them next to older, more experienced players in Lee Pugh, Si Nangle, Al Coleman, Chris Lynch and Hakan Burton, and it gelled.
“It was a cruel end to the season ultimately, but we added pace, energy and enthusiasm, and thought whatever happened this season was a bonus, as long as we stayed up.
“The average age of the side was 21, and we knew they would get bullied in some games, but it moulded into an exciting young team, and our ambition now is to go for that number one spot.”
There will inevitably be vultures hovering around those young talents, but Cunningham and chairman Ryan Haigh have been canny in that respect: “All the players are on a contract, receiving a small amount, with incentives, so we can afford it if games are postponed.
“And if anyone comes in with a better offer, it means clubs have to show us the money for our players.
“They have a year contract, with an option in our favour, and we’ve exercised that option with nine of the lads already, and are confident the rest will follow.
“It means I’m going into pre-season probably only looking at bringing in a centre back, winger and a centre forward, which is brilliant.”
Colne will be back in pre-season training at the beginning to middle of June, with testing friendlies already arranged against Burnley Under 23s, Silsden, Barnoldswick Town, Charnock Richard, Preston and Fleetwood XIs and Farsley Celtic.
The club will host a family fun day on June 9th, incorporating the player of the year awards, which is free of charge.
The club will be open from 2 p.m., with inflatables and water slides for the kids, and a barbecue, weather providing.