Premier Division Preview - Weekend Commencing 29 July 2023

Fri 28th July 2023 | Match Previews
By Gary Langley

We go again! Following a long summer and a period of AGM’s changes, moves, drop-outs and drama we arrive at the start of the 2023-24 League season. This weekend sees a number of teams starting their NWCFL Journeys and a number of clubs returning, ready to start their next adventure.

In the Premier Division, many eyes will be on Gigg Land as Bury FC start the next chapter of their story with a home game against returning friends Glossop North End. Obviously the developments around the Bury FC situation are well documented and they are looking to get off to a good start to try and kick-start a journey that a number of clubs have successfully completed before them to get from the NWCFL to the Football League. Glossop were last with us in the 2014-15 season where they won this same Division and also won the Macron Cup and were losing FA Vase finalists. Glossop have made a number of squad changes but retained the nucleus of the side who were unlucky in their last Northern Premier League campaign and were subsequently relegated.

Another side who were unluck last season were Skelmersdale United who finished 11th in the NPL Division One West last season but were relegated on a ground grading issue. They return to us after a season away and they recommence their NWCFL history with a home game against Padiham. Skem will remain playing at Burscough FC’s Community ground this season but will have high hopes this season, despite having had a change of manager and a new-look squad.

Colne are another club who return to us following relegation and they arguably have one of the toughest starts to the season as they travel to West Didsbury & Chorlton this weekend, a team that many quietly fancy to be up there come the end of the season. Colne were last with us in 2015-16 as they went up and nearly went up again the following season but were unlucky in the promotion play-offs. They return to us having finished 19th in the NPL West last season.

The side finishing 20th in the NPL Division One West last season were Ramsbottom United and they return to the NWCFL after just over a decade away and they are set for a first meeting with Wythenshawe, the artists formerly known as Wythenshawe Amateurs at the Selco Builders Warehouse Community Stadium. Both of these clubs will be looking upwards this season in their ambition and whilst Rammy lick their wounds following relegation, Wythenshawe come into their first Step 5 campaign with the momentum generated by a promotion season, having won Division One South last season.

Lower Breck have strengthened significantly over the summer and they start the season with a home game against Barnoldswick Town at the ASCC. Both of these clubs have promotion ambitions and both have set a good stall out for the start of the campaign.

Last Seasons Division One North title winners, Pilkington start their first Step 5 campaign with an away trip to the seaside as they travel to Squires Gate. Pilkington won Division One North fairly convincingly last season and have added 2-3 impact players who will boost their squad to the strength required to compete at step 5, whilst Squires Gate have also added to their squad, looking to improve on last seasons 20th placed finished that left them much closer to trouble than they would have wanted.

FC Isle of Man face an important season as they look to solely concentrate on the league, looking to build momentum again following a respectable 13th place finish last season. They face a tough opener against Wythenshawe Town, who finished third in this division last season and whom are looking to challenge again with a number of decent additions to their squad, including the appointment of new Manager, Rory Fallon.

Chadderton start life in Step 5 with a home game against Litherland Remyca, both teams with a reputation for grafting out on the pitch. Chadderton were ultimately promoted via the play-offs whilst last season The Remy finished a perfectly respectable 10th in the table with manager Colin McDonald looking to push on following a solid pre-season. Division One South play-off winners, Cheadle Town also start at home as they welcome Charnock Richard to Park Road.

Burscough were quite fortunate not to be relegated last season and they will be looking to finish stronger this season and have a tough looking start away to Prestwich Heys. The Linnets appointed former Skelmersdale United Manager Richard Brodie back in May and he has brought in a number of news signings which include former Winsford United striker, Danny Boden and Midfielder, Faisal Al Raisi from Turton who a number of clubs were rumoured to be monitoring. Heys finished in the top ten last season and they will be looking to consolidate that, albeit in a much changed looking Division this season and Lee O’Brien and James Hampson have been active themselves in strengthening what was already a very competent squad.

AFC Liverpool were very close to gatecrashing the promotion party last season but they will be looking to do the same again, albeit with a new Manager in place following the departure of Matt Potter to Skem. Former Litherland Remyca Manager, Phil Stafford returns to the NWCFL to lead his former team as The Non-League Reds look to challenge again this season. His tenure will start with an away trip to Kendal Town, a club who themselves are looking to get themselves in the mix. The Mintcakes finished 12th last season in a campaign of consolidation and rebuilding and they could surprise a few teams this season.

Longridge Town and Irlam were both lower mid-table finishers last season finishing 15th and 17th respectively. Both in recent years have been fancied to do well but had relatively low key campaigns last season out and these two go head to head up at The Recycling Lives Ground this weekend.

Lots of great fixtures taking place in what is a jam-packed fixture list, a theme that will be repeated quite a lot this season with a bumper 24 team Premier Division this season. One thing for sure is that it is a tough looking season for all clubs, it is up for debate whether this is the strongest looking Premier Divisions for a generation, but I’ll leave that thought with you anyway. If you are off to a game this weekend, have a good game and don’t forget to tag @nwcfl in on your twitter or @northwestcountiesfl in on your Instagram pics or Threads Social Media posts.

Image from Bury FC

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