Nelson boss Steve Cunningham hopes the Admirals can continue their forward momentum and push for a place in the top six of the new-look North West Counties First Division North.
The Blues kick-off the season with a trip to face Chadderton Town at the ARK Fleetech Stadium tomorrow, bolstered by a number of new faces.
Cunningham’s men couldn’t achieve his ambition of the “small miracle” of avoiding finishing in the bottom two of the North West Counties First Division last season.
But their form after his arrival saw them close the gap from 22 points from what was initially the safety line, to one, turning their fortunes around dramatically.
Cunningham has made something of a coup after landing former Bamber Bridge, Morecambe and Ramsbottom United striker Ryan Salmon.
Jake Townsend has signed on again for a second season, while James Wolfenden, Alex Grice, Mohammed Feroze, Marcel Wusiewicz, Kieran Demaine, Mark Sharples, captain Ash Brierley and Jake Lloyd have also re-signed.
And James Leech, Daniel Russell, Brett Doogan, Sam Dickinson Gaz Hill have also joined the club.
Cunningham said: “We finished the season sixth in the form table, which was a positive, and hopefully we can continue that sort of momentum.
“We’ve only kept six of the lads I inherited, and decided to go for more experience this season. We’ve still got four or five young lads we hope will make the grade as well.
“But the last three years or so haven’t been the best at Nelson and we’re hoping to put a smile on people’s faces.”
Only the champions will be promoted this season, but Cunningham is hopeful his side can be in and around the top six challenging: “I hope we can finish in the top six.
“Only one team goes up, so it will be very hard to win promotion, and our budget – while being decent – is not even half what some clubs have available.
“We should still be competitive though.”
And Cunningham hopes, in Salmon, he has found the frontman who can give his side the most valuable currency of goals.
Nelson only scored 50 in 42 league games last season, and Cunningham said: “Ryan can’t commit to training, as he has a new job and works away Monday to Friday in Telford, but we were happy to accommodate that because of what he can bring to us. He’ll make the odd training session, but he comes with massive experience.
“He’s 31, he was at Atherton Collieries and Ramsbottom United last season, so has played at a higher level.
“And we’re hoping he can give us what we were missing last season, in terms of goals.”
The league will have a fresh look, with new clubs Avro, Cleator Moor Celtic, Garstang, Longridge Town, Lower Breck and Shelley – who are Nelson’s first opponents at Little Wembley on Tuesday night, with kick-off at 7-45 p.m.
Cunningham is excited by the prospect: “I can’t wait to play the Garstangs and Longridges, I’ve known them for years, so it will be good fun.
“The travelling is also nowhere near as much as it was last season, which is a big factor. I’m excited. We start at Chadderton and then are at home to Shelley, and hopefully we can get off to a good start.
“We’ve put in some good performances against Clitheroe and Curzon Ashton in pre-season, and matched them for the most part, so we’re ready to go.”
l Nelson are looking for a first team sponsor, and if anyone can help, please contact Steve Cunningham on 07949028426.