STORKS secretary Alan Smith believes Padiham FC could be this season’s silent assassins.
With free-scoring New Mills now out of the picture following their promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One South, Smith insists the North West Counties Premier Division title-chase promises to be a competitive battle.
Padiham’s push will begin tomorrow as they travel to Runcorn Town for the opening game. The Storks then face newly-promoted AFC Blackpool in their first home outing on Wednesday.
“Everyone within the club is very excited,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a strange season I think because it will be very open, unless someone becomes the next New Mills overnight. If there was a season that Padiham had the opportunity to push on, this is it.”
He added: “Our pre-season squad of players is probably the strongest one on paper that we’ve had. By retaining the majority of last season’s players it gives us the chance to make a strong start. We’ve got two tough opening fixtures so it should give us some idea as to where we are heading.
“Looking at it, we should be in with a chance of challenging. We want to do well in the FA competitions this year as well. We didn’t really make a go of it last season which was a big loss on the financial side of things.”
Craig Chadwick’s side have impressed throughout pre-season with continuity the key. The Padiham boss has maintained the bulk of his squad with the exception of Lloyd Balazs who has joined Ashton Athletic. However, Paul Fildes has re-signed for the club while defender John Lea, midfielder Dominic Slaven and striker Andy Sensale have all been added to the ranks.
“From the club’s point of view we did a lot better than expected last year,” said Smith. “We finished very strong and we’ve managed to maintain a lot of those players for the new season.