Simon Garner believes the Blues are better equipped for life in the Evo-Stik First Division North after bolstering his squad ahead of the 2014/15 campaign.
A dismal run of form at the back end of last season exposed a naivety and inexperience within the Shawbridge ranks, but the Clitheroe boss has moved to address that.
Garner has retained the services of Danny Morton, James, Walker, Danny Wilkins, Alex Palfy, Oli McClean, Ross Dent, Danny Brady, Dom Mulkerrin, Adam Freeland, Charlie Collinge, Scott Byrom and Brynn Potter while adding 10 new faces, inclusive of former Claret David Lynch.
Marauding right back Mike Aspin, versatile left-footer Brent Wood-Townend, former Bamber Bridge midfielder Roberto Bonaminio and left-sided midfielder Callum Hoctor provide the necessary experience and nous needed in the eighth tier of the English football league pyramid.
Meanwhile, defender Steve Mercer returns for a second spell, forwards Liam Hutchinson, Richard Burns and Pete Dunkerley have signed while former Rovers and Manchester City youth player Liam Hoyle has been snapped up.
After returning for pre-season, Garner said: “We’ve done five sessions so far and it’s been good. There’s a lot of new lads integrating with the old ones and it’s looking like we’ve got a good group. Everyone is working hard.
“I’ve brought in the experience I’ve been talking about for months. It’ll will be a huge help for the new season and for the lads with less experience at this level. The lads from last year have got 20 games or so under their belts now as well so that will stand them in good stead.
“We lacked experience last year and we were a bit naive but I’ve brought in the players I feel necessary to address that. I’m really happy with how pre-season is going.”
The Blues face a Blackburn Rovers XI at Shawbridge on Saturday, kick-off 3 p.m., as the pre-season schedule gets underway. And Garner is eagerly anticipating a return to action in a bid to build on recent fitness drills.
“Up to now it’s mainly been physical work,” he said. “They haven’t seen much of the ball yet. We had a good session at Clitheroe Castle at the weekend. We’ve mixed it up so far with aerobic exercises, long distance runs, circuits, sprints, hill running and short, sharp bursts.
“We’ll be doing bleep tests and then we’ll start working on the tactical elements, shape and how we want them to play. That will develop during games in the coming weeks.”
Garner added: “I’m looking forward to the weekend fixture. It’ll be Blackburn’s development squad and they have some talented youngsters. Connor Mahoney could feature and Jordan Preston, who spent time here last season, might play. It’ll be a really good test and a good chance to see the new signings in action.
“It’ll be good to get back to playing football. There’s nothing better than getting on a pitch and playing competitively. It’s the first of many games at Shawbridge and we’re all looking forward to it.”
The Blues, who will be sponsored by Littletown Farm for the new term, have been drawn against Seaham Red Star or Liversedge on home soil in the preliminary round of the FA Cup on August 30th. They’ll host Droylsden in the preliminary round of the FA Trophy on October 18th, and will travel to face either Curzon Ashton or Runcorn Linnets in the first qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup on the week commencing September 22nd.