Our 60th and last preview comes from NWCFL First Division South side New Mills who we caught up with their Press Officer Chris Culkin who started with a breakdown of the 2018/19 season where they finished 18th.
"There’s no doubt that last season was hugely disappointing for everyone at the club. Ironically we went into the season with great optimism with a really exciting squad, on the back of some really good pre-season performances. We had a good first month of the season and were top of the league for a short period, but then the FA Vase defeat to Ollerton seemed to affect confidence badly and from September results were poor.
"There was a managerial change in November, but in honesty, there was no improvement and the club narrowly avoided finishing in the bottom two of the league. A few of the higher-profile players moved onto other clubs which siding help matters and results in the second half of the season were awful. Ultimately it came as no surprise when the committee decided to make a managerial change at the end of the season. In the end, there were very few positives to take.
"The change of Manager was inevitable really, results were dreadful towards the end of the season and one or two of the performances were hard to watch. The club is fully aware that other clubs may have better resources at the moment, but the team should be expected to match their opponents in terms of effort. That seemed to be missing and the new Manager Paul Riley will make that demand on his players. He has his views on how the game needs to be played at this level and we’re confident that this season will see a big improvement."
Culkin is expecting a more positive season ahead, "At the start of the season we share the same ambitions as every other club in the league and that is to challenge at the top end of the table. Having said that, as long as there are signs of progression on the field then that will be seen as a positive season. Finishing near the bottom of the league was disappointing and the club is expecting a much better showing this time around. It will be a very competitive league and teams will take points off each other, so if the Manager can get his team performing consistently then there is no reason to believe that it will not be a good season."
Mills will also compete in the Buildbase FA Vase for the thirteenth time in their history and face an away trip to fellow NWCFL side Skelmersdale, "An FA Vase run would be a great boost for the club and it’s something that we’ve not really had for a number of years. Since we came back into the NWCFL our cup record has been awful, so it would be good to get a few wins and progress.
The prize money is obviously a bonus, but cup runs bring confidence as well, which the club really needs to progress after a few poor seasons. The club had a great run in the Vase in 2009/10 and it was a great time to be a supporter. Crowds were up and New Mills was a club that players around the league wanted to play for. It would be brilliant to get those days back. The committee is working hard to achieve that."
And on pre-season, "With the managerial change in May and then a new squad being built, it’s no secret that pre-season has been mixed. The Manager has brought in some experienced players in the last few days though and while the team may not get off to a flying start due to being a new squad, they will certainly be competitive. I would expect that it may be a few weeks before we see this team really start to gel, but others are in the same boat too.
"The friendly games have been used for fitness and to give trialists opportunities, while there have been several unannounced matches too for the Manager to look at his squad. There will be enough quality in the team though to ensure that the club gets points on the board early on in the season and can build from there. The Manager has a record of being successful at his previous clubs and will demand a good start to the season."
Last Culkin touched on player retention, "Only a few of last seasons squad have been retained, which shows that the Manager is not afraid to make his mark on the club and make it his own team. There are still players that he is working to bring to the club, which may take a week or two, but once they arrive things look promising."