Football clubs in Tameside and Glossop have been given the welcome news that the grassroots game can make its long awaited return following the coronavirus outbreak.
After months of worry and concern about the future of lower league football, clubs, supporters and players can now look forward to competitive action from August.
It’s a major boost for clubs in the Reporter’s circulation area, who have been busy on and off the pitch in preparation ahead of next season.
Our highest ranked side, Curzon Ashton, will be competing in the National League North for a sixth consecutive season under new manager Steve Cunningham, who joined in May after six successful years with Colne.
Cunningham, who will be joined in the dugout by assistant boss Damien Crossley, replaced the outgoing Mark Bradshaw, who had the Nash 14 points above the relegation zone before lockdown took effect and the season was prematurely ended.
As we went to print, Curzon had yet to comment on any new signings. However, the club has said goodbye to defenders Andy Halls and Mo Ali, who have joined Chorley and Southport respectively, whilst midfielder Mike Calveley has also joined Chorley.
Across town, Ashton United manager Michael Clegg has been building a squad with lots of promise as the Robins go in search of promotion.
It’s no secret that the Robins, under the guidance of joint-chairmen David and Jonathan Burke, had one of the most competitive budgets in the BetVictor Premier Division last season.
But despite assembling a promising squad on paper, previous manager Jody Banim was unable to deliver success to Hurst Cross and left by mutual consent in November. He was replaced by former Atherton Collieries manager Clegg, whose arrival at the club sparked an upturn in form and the Robins climbed out of the relegation zone before the season was null and voided due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Clegg has since announced a number of returning faces, including defenders Jono Hunt, John Pritchard, and John Lufudu, alongside midfielders Chris Rowney, Liam Tomsett and Ben Hardcastle, goalkeeper Greg Hartley, and forwards Louis Almond and Josh Wilson.
New recruits include midfielder Jake Cottrell from Chorley, former Football League defender Michael Raynes, and forward Tom Bentham from Atherton.
In the same division, Hyde United will be hoping to build on last season’s 10th place finish under manager Dave McGurk.
The Tigers, who will be competing in step seven for a third consecutive season, have renovated Ewen Fields over the past few months and replaced the blue seats constructed in 2014 as part of a ground sharing deal with Manchester City, with the club’s traditional red.
An army of volunteers have also given the ground a new lease of life with a lick of red paint.
On the pitch McGurk, who took the managerial reigns at the start of last season following Darren Kelly’s transition into a director role before his move to Scarborough, has signed winger Theo Bailey-Jones after two seasons with Stafford Rangers, whilst Gainsborough Trinity midfielder Kingsley James has also put pen to paper.
A host of other players including striker Tom Pratt, midfielder Liam Tongue, and goalkeeper James Hodges have also signed contract extensions. A full list of players can be found on Hyde’s official website.
Local rivals Stalybridge Celtic have been just as busy with manager Simon Haworth, who signed a two-year contract extension just before we went into lockdown, bringing a raft of new players to Bower Fold.
Left-back Ben Woods has joined from West Didsbury & Chorlton, whilst central midfielder Damani Holness has joined from Stockport Town.
Defender Tom Wilson joins from Hallam FC, forward Mike Burke joins from Staveley Miners Welfare, goalkeeper Tom Stewart joins from Ramsbottom United, and midfielder Krisel Prifti joins following a spell with Trafford. Midfielder Scott Sephton has joined from Matlock Town, whilst winger Kallum Mantack has put pen to paper for another season after making 37 appearances during the 2019/20 campaign.
At this moment in time, allocations from step three to seven have yet to be confirmed, which includes our three clubs Mossley, Droylsden and Glossop North End.
Regardless of which division they’re assigned into, Mossley are about to embark on a new chapter with incoming manager David Fish taking charge of the Lilywhites.
Fish, who previously played as a goalkeeper for Curzon Ashton and Stockport County amongst others, arrived at Seel Park in June having gained valuable experience in the North West Counties First Division North with Chadderton.
He has already made his mark at Seel Park by bringing in a number of new faces, including midfielder Ryan Shenton, goalkeeper Jordan Hadlow, and defender Jordan Butterworth, who have previously played for Chadderton.
Winger Matty Waller has also joined from Shelley. He is an England six-a-side International player having been developed at Leeds United as a youth.
A host of players have also returned, including defender Ben Richardson, who left the club in January to join Ramsbottom United, as well as defenders Dec Evans and Steve Mason.
Supporters Player of the Year Andy Keogh has also put pen to paper, having turned down the offer of becoming the club’s manager.
A full list of players can be found on Mossley’s official website.
Elsewhere in the division, there has been very little communication and output at the Butchers Arms, Droylsden. However, given the situation over the previous four months, and based on the Bloods’ history of revealing players just weeks before the opening game, there will probably be an update in August.
As reported last week, Glossop North End secretary Dan Bates says the club is about to embark on a new era under joint-managers Peter Band and Lloyd Morrison. The duo returned to training recently and have already swooped to sign a number of former players, including midfielder Will Holt, defenders Lloyd Bannister, Will Hartshorne, Devon Matthews and Lee Wilshaw, midfielder Jordyn Fitton, wingers Leon Iluobe and Bevan Burey, striker Aliue Sheriff, and goalkeeper Dale Latham.
Striker Anthony Thomas has joined the Hillmen from Maine Road.