Well, well, well… the day has finally arrived when we play our first ever game in the Northern Premier League (The Evo-stik League). Now I for one never expected us to get anywhere near this esteemed league but the club have been eagerly anticipating this fixture since a Mark Truffas free-kick on a cold April evening gave us a 1-0 triumph over Abbey Hey, which sealed our promotion. 

When Cleggy and co. took over three years ago promotion to the NWCFL top flight was promised within twelve months. This promise was kept to emphatically but the way this close knit team of local lads have continued to develop in this last two years has been unbelievable.

Again, I never thought we would be applying for promotion to Step 4 football but that’s what we did in the 2015/16 campaign and the committee worked wonders to get the required ground grading. We only managed a 3rd placed finish though but it was still a wonderful season as we smashed both our top flight finishing position and points tally records. We also managed to win the League Challenge Trophy and were the last Counties club left in the FA Vase.

The first two years of the Clegg regime were ‘beyond our wildest dreams’ but last season in our centenary year ‘we dared to dream’. After a cool spell form wise in September, we then took 50 out of the next 54 points on offer to throw down the gauntlet to our numerous promotion rivals. The FA Vase defeat at Cleethorpes Town was undeniably the bitterest pill to swallow but the lads remained focused on the job and managed to attain three 1-0 vital Arsenalesque home victories on the bounce immediately after. 

The pressure was cranked up when Linnets left the Kensite with all three points on April Fools Day. They also replaced us at the summit of the league but had played a few games more. The lads knew what they had to do and the next seven games were all won and the title was ours. The victories were ground out; it was no fun for all concerned. No fun whatsoever! The celebrations lasted well into the night and for the next month or so.

So we leave the NWCFL behind. We were founder members of the league in 1982/83 and as I keep saying we never ever expected to leave it. We have had our ups and downs in the Counties and more than the odd ding dong with the Management Committee but that is part and parcel of footballing life. They have wished us all the best on our elevation to the Evo-Stik and why wouldn’t they? They pride themselves on promoting teams years in, year out. I bet they never expected us to be one of them though!

We join the Evo-Stik League and have been given a great welcome. Paul Gregory and I went to the new clubs meeting a few weeks ago in a hotel in Warrington somewhere and were given a mega list of do’s and dont’s along with a nice hot and cold finger buffet at half time. I must admit it is quite daunting for me joining another league even though I have done the football secretaries job diligently here for twenty years now. I know I don’t look old enough!

Maybe it’s a fear of the unknown but the help that league secretary Angie Firth and her team have given us so far has been first rate. She did make me laugh at that meeting though when she said ‘we were in  big boy’s league now’ as she declined Paul’s only half joking request to stagger the league’s payments over the season.  There are also a plethora of teams in our Division 1 North Division who we know from the NWCFL so it will be nice to get reacquainted with these good footballing people. 

Michael and the lads have got us into the Evo-Stik League and hopefully you the fans will continue to give them the great support you have accorded them over the last three campaigns. We go into the season as underdogs (lively) and look forward to putting our wits against some good football clubs. I am not going to make any predictions but I know that we will be competitive. Win, lose or draw let’s have some fun in this ‘big boy’s league’ 

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