Colls out to cause upsets in the Premier

Atherton Collieries are preparing for their first season in the BetVictor Northern Premier having enjoyed three promotions in the last five seasons.

The mastermind of that is manager Michael Clegg, who will be hoping to make an impact at step three.

They have kept a relatively settled squad, though were dealt a late blow in pre-season by the departure of goalkeeper Greg Hartley, who has since been replaced by Chester loanee Theo Roberts.

Keeping the likes of Ben Hardcastle, Danny Lafferty and Tom Bentham is a boost with arguably the toughest of starts to the season as they travel to relegated Ashton United on the opening day, before hosting last season’s play-off winners Warrington Town on Tuesday.

Clegg said: “We can’t wait obviously, but we’ll take it a game at a time.

“Our ultimate aim is to stay in the league but we would love to cause a few upsets on the way.

“The club on a whole now has a winning mentality, crowds are up, we’ve got some exciting footballers, we’ve got the player of the year in Ben Hardcastle.

“We’re just going from strength to strength. The key for me was keeping the squad together which we have by and large, and it’ll be about really enjoying the journey.

“I think we will have to establish our brand of football on the league and take each game as it comes.”

As well as keeping much of their NPL West Division title winning squad, Colls have brought in a handful of new faces, notably Brad Lynch, who joined this week from Colne.

Toyeeb Mustapha and Jack Egan have also come in, catching the eye during pre-season.

“All managers have their own way of working, I’m very much hands on with my players, we were really close last year,” said Clegg.

“It’s about sticking to your principles, your DNA, your club’s culture. We will go out and get a player that fits our style, rather than a really good player that becomes available for cheap, getting him and panicking about where he’s going to fit in.

“It’s about backing yourself and believing you can find the right people to come in to your environment. Money does play a part at this level and people know we don’t have a lot of it, but we do well in other areas.”

Clegg was one of a group of managers and coaches that successfully completed a UEFA B licence recently in a course provided and funded by the Northern Premier League, at the home of West Riding County FA.

“They’re brilliant the NPL and I think courses like this are an absolute must. I know we were the first batch of this, but the unity of the 20 lads this year has been brilliant, we share reports away from the course, we’ve got really close bonds now.

“We just share experiences and contacts and football is our common ground, and there are some great lads coaching. If the NPL can keep churning out people like this they’re doing a good job as there are some fantastic people in there.

Where next?

Big kick-off: BetVictor Northern Premier preview The wait is over - the new look BetVictor Northern Premier kicks-off this weekend.
Colls fill 'keeper void and lure Lynch Atherton Collieries have boosted their squad with two new signings ahead of their BetVictor Northern Premier division bow on Saturday.

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