GREAT Harwood boss John Hughes hopes he now has the combination of youth and experience to make a charge for the North West Counties Division Two title.
The Harwood chief has been working hard over the summer and feels he has put together a team with enough talent to make an impact.
Harwood finished sixth last season after winning eight of their last 10 games.
They warmed up for the forthcoming season with a 3-1 win over Rossendale on Tuesday night and were set to play Whinney Hill last night. They face Silsden at the Showground tomorrow (3pm) and then have a game against Accrington Stanley at the Interlink Express Stadium on Monday (ko 7pm).
"I have made a couple of signings and there is enough talent in the team to make a push for promotion," said Hughes.
He has signed Adam Wagstaff, a 16-year-old who was released from Bury, and has been full of praise for Mark Bottomley, an under-17 who has come through the ranks at Harwood.
He has also snapped up goalkeeper Paul Snape, from Blackburn, who was on Bolton's books but broke his leg.
"I think he will be a tremendous acquisition. His kicking, handling and shot-stopping is tremendous. He is only 18 years old but he is promising," enthused Hughes.
Regular keeper Bobby Harris is going into the Army in October while Daryl Sloane will be battling for the number one spot. Gavin King and Liam Dorsey are also goalies hoping to make an impression. And another player that Hughes hopes will star is 17-year-old striker Matty Derbyshire.
"He came through the ranks and scored around six times in our last eight games. People are talking about him so we hope he does well. He has been outstanding."
Right back Anthony Green is another teenager who could make an impression alongside right midfielder Danny O'Reilly while Richard Fogarty has gone on trial at Bamber Bridge but could return to the Showground.
"I have cover all over and that is what I wanted. We have a lot of youngsters, a lot of talent, but we also have the likes of Dave Sharples, Neil Kennedy and Neil Baron who have been with us a number of years."
Harwood also list a James Dean among their number, a 6ft 2in 17-year-old, who has promise.
"He began life as a centre forward but I have moved him to centre back and he has done well. He is a local lad and people are raving about him. I have a big squad now and hopefully we can start well. The likes of Colne and Padiham will be up there but I think we can be as well."
Scorers against Rossendale were two other new boys, Paul Goldthorpe, a central midfielder, and under-17 Darren Rogers. John Eastham got the other in a match where Hughes had 26 players to select from.
"I was impressed with all the lads, I swapped things around and they all did well against a strong Rossendale side. The only downside was an injury to our striker Paul Mashiter who was taken to hospital with an injury to the top of his foot after a tackle. He will be out for around a month."
- HARWOOD are on the lookout for a person qualified in first aid to help out on match days. Phone 07989 054013 if you can help.