The Northern Premier League kicks off on Saturday and Tony Bugby looks at the prospects of the four Tameside clubs, starting with Mossley.
After narrowly missing out on the play-offs in Northern Premier League, west division last season, Mossley will be aiming to push for a top-five spot.
That would be a great achievement for the Lilywhites in what promises to be another hugely competitive division.
Nantwich Town and Stalybridge Celtic, two big clubs, were relegated from NPL, premier while the likes of Witton Albion, Leek Town and Clitheroe are always challenging at the top.
“Avro and Vauxhall Motors have been promoted and are not in the division to make up the numbers,” explained Alex Craddock, Mossley’s assistant manager.
Mossley go into the campaign in great shape, though, having recruited well and having had a decent pre-season of five victories, one draw and one loss from seven fixtures.
There have been some impressive results, notably holding National League North side Southport to a 2-2 draw and beating neighbours Hyde United 4-2 in their final warm-up match.
“It has been a really good pre-season and a tough one as we made a conscious effort to play clubs around us or higher,” explained Craddock (pictured)
“Southport, who want to be challenging for the play-offs, was the most challenging physically with their style of play and they bombarded us for the first 20 minutes. To come from 2-0 down to draw against a NLN team was very pleasing.
“Hyde was completely different as they get the ball down and play. We played some of our best football for a long time and were good value.”
Mossley also appear to have made light of the loss of Mason Fawns, the second leading goalscorer in the division last season.
With Keaton Mulvey recruited from Glossop and Eden Bailey from Altrincham, Mossley have two top replacements to feature along with Oumar Camara and the vastly experienced Andy Keogh.
“We have three strikers who have each scored four goals pre-season. If that happens, you are in good shape,” added Craddock.
Mossley lost five of last season’s starters as Fawns received an offer he could not refuse from Bootle while Jordan Butterworth (Bamber Bridge) and Freddie Sass (Southport) move up one and two divisions respectively. Loan players Tom Watson and Kai Payne returned to their parent clubs.
The Lilywhites were prepared as Craddock continued: “We knew there was a chance Mason would go as he was the second top scorer in the league.
“We identified Keaton as a replacement. In fact, we went for him three times last season. Had we gone any more I am sure we would have had a restraining order placed on us!”
Craddock describes the capture of Bailey, a former pro at Port Vale, as a “coup” as he showed pre-season what he can do.
Mossley have also resolved their goalkeeping issue after capturing the experienced Chris Thompson from Clitheroe to replace Matt Hamnett who tore a groin muscle in the warm-up before the Southport friendly.
Craddock believes Mossley have a great balance between “young hungry players” and experience with the “phenomenal” Keogh, Shane Killock, Mark Lees and Nicky Clee the elder statesmen in the side.
He is confident the Lilywhites’ squad is well equipped for the challenges that lie ahead.
Craddock said: “We have assembled a squad of 18/19 players and then have a further five on dual registrations.
“We have worked hard in the summer building up the squad the size of which was not quite right last season.
“There were a couple of games when we only had one or two fit substitutes which cost us. We don’t want that to happen again.”
Craddock believes there could be as many as 12 really strong teams in the division.
“I know it is a cliché but there is not an easy game in the division,” he said.
Craddock added it is important Mossley get off to a good start saying the first four fixtures in the opening 10 days will be a decent barometer.
Mossley are at home to Prescot on Saturday (Aug 12), visit Witton on Aug 15, entertain Ramsbottom in the FA Cup (Aug 19) and entertain Widnes (Aug 22).