New-look Storks ready to take on the challenge

Action from the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy semi-final between Lancaster City (blue and white) v Padiham, at the County Ground in Leyland.'Chris Turner scores the opening goal for Padiham.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'23-2-2016
Action from the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy semi-final between Lancaster City (blue and white) v Padiham, at the County Ground in Leyland.'Chris Turner scores the opening goal for Padiham. PIC BY ROB LOCK'23-2-2016
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Padiham joint-manager Liam Smith isn’t making many predictions ahead of the new North West Counties Premier Division campaign.

But he promises to deliver a Storks side proud to wear the shirt, who will give their all for the club.

Padiham lost 11 of their final 13 games last season, conceding 32 goals, as they finished 17th.

But Smith, Dixon Lambert and Alex Norwood have not stopped since the end of last term, piecing together a squad they feel can compete at this level.

Ahead of tomorrow’s opener at home to Runcorn Town, Smith said: “We’re really looking forward to getting going.

“We had a disappointing end to last season, and that had to be addressed.

“We’ve been very busy – as soon as the whistle blew at the last game, we started work on this season.

“We only retained two players, and we had to bring in a lot of fresh faces.

“We’ve managed to do that, which has been very pleasing, and we think we’ve got some top quality – players with points to prove as well, hungry players who want to do well and progress.

“And we’re not finished yet, fingers crossed there’ll be a couple more.

“But there’s a fresh buzz about the place.”

While there are fresh faces, there are a number of familiar ones as well, with former Accrington Stanley man Chris Turner back at the club after a spell with Nelson, while James Dean also returns.

Smith explained: “Chris Turner is back, and will be our captain.

“He’s a top player, he’s played over 100 games for the club as well, which is important. He knows the place and what it’s about.

“He’s lost two stone in weight and has a fresh point to prove.

“James Dean is back as well, and is a big player for us, a great signing, whether he plays at centre forward or centre back.

“Jordan Gidley has also come in, to what was a problem position for us.

“We had 11 or 12 goalkeepers last season, so to have a number one we can trust allows us to build.

“And the list goes on.

“Adam Jones won the league with Runcorn Linnets, has signed, and his best mate Liam O’Neill, who has been at Crewe.”

O’Neill was at Airbus UK Broughton, and was training with Southport earlier this year before then manager Kevin Davies alerted Atherton Collieries to the promising attacking midfielder.

Padiham have also signed forward Tom Hulme: “Tom is a local striker with over 80 goals in the last two years with Haslingden St Mary’s.

“They all fit the profile we wanted, and we sat down with them all individually to make sure they are the right person as well as player.”

Padiham open their North West Counties League Premier Division campaign on Saturday at the Ruby Civil Arena against Runcorn Town (kick-off 3 p.m.).

And the Storks then face a derby clash at Barnoldswick Town’s Silentnight Stadium on Tuesday night, kick-off 7-5 p.m.

Joint boss Liam Smith hopes Padiham can push as high up the table as possible, with only the champions promoted: “One up isn’t ideal, and hopefully that changes soon.

“It is going to be very tough.

“We just want to finish as high as we can.

“We have a team who want to play for the club, restore some pride and do as well as we can.

“Any manager wants to win the league, and I don’t want to just finish 10th or something, we just want to finish a high as we can, and have some good cup runs – the FA Cup and Vase always help with funds and bring a buzz.

“Teams in our league have two and three times our budget, but the pressure is on them to win the league. We can’t compete with that, but our budget will be top 10 and is all sustainable.

“We’ll just focus on ourselves, take each game on as they come with an honest, hungry group that the fans will hopefully enjoy watching.”