The future looks bright at Nelson, despite the pain of relegation to the North West Counties League First Division.
The Blues’ demotion was confirmed on Easter Monday after a 2-2 draw at home to Padiham.
Boss Alex Norwood has introduced a number of the youth team over the last few weeks, in readiness for next season, and hopes the group can only benefit from the experience moving forward: “The last four or five games, we’ve been playing a lot more younger players, and that’s the route we’re going down for next season.
“We’ve used it to try and expose them to the harsh realities, and there’s been some good signs, culminating in a superb performance against a top Padiham team on Monday.
“Padiham have built the foundations to have a proper go at it next year, and that made our performance even more pleasing.
“We looked dangerous on the counter in the second half and might have got a winner.”
Norwood isn’t putting any undue pressure on his talented young side, however: “I’m not going to start making daft predictions. I think the damage has been done culturally progressively – we’ve struggled with who we are and what we offer.
“We have a reputation for over-paying players, throwing money at it, and we can’t and won’t do that any more.
“That’s not how I think we should operate. There’s so many local clubs in the food chain, and it comes down to who is offering the most money. That’s when I question players’ mentality and intentions.
“My background is in development, and the chairman wants to focus on that.
“So there’s no pressure, saying we’re going to bounce back straight away, the group can grow to achieve something. They need patience and stability.”
Despite the optimism, relegation is a kick in the teeth, however: “It’s the first relegation I’ve suffered, and it’s not nice, but it’s been coming.
“As a club we’ve had four managers in two years, and between 200 and 250 players through the door – that’s only going to lead one way.
“It’s time to establish a culture and identity, and there is support for that at the club.”