Ashington Colliers joint manager David Leightley believes exciting times are ahead for his side on the eve of a new campaign in the Northern Alliance premier division.
When Leightley came in with Steve Jones to assist long-serving manager David Brown during last season, the club were second from bottom.
They avoided relegation but Leightley said: “Our aim was to stay up and as we finished fourth from the basement we achieved that.
“We have revamped the squad bringing a lot of young and promising players into a big pool as we seek a massive improvement.”
The Colliers kick-off Saturday with a home game against Whitley Bay ‘A’ at Woodhorn Lane, kick-off 2.30pm.
There follows a derby against newly promoted AFC Newbiggin on Wednesday, August 12, at Hirst Welfare, 6.30pm.
Leightley added: “Our preparation has been disjointed by players being away on holiday as well as having two friendlies called off, but I have been happy with performances even if results could have been better.
“This week we will train on Monday then have an away game against Stobswood on Wednesday.
“We have brought a lot of young talent on board, all young lads who are inexperienced at this level but looking to develop them for the future.
“We face a tough start because Whitley Bay are a very good footballing side who play the right way and who keep the ball on the deck, so we are expecting a good game.
“Newbiggin have a very good team. I watched them on a couple of occasions last term and I think it will be a good test for our young lads who haven’t played in a proper derby before.”
Although Brown, who has been at the helm for 15 years, has an input, the ex-Ashington and Whitley Bay centre forward is taking a bit of a back seat with Leightley having the final say on team selection whilst Dave McKenzie has joined as coach and Ian Davison as physio.
“For Saturday, we have a clean bill of health and a full squad to choose from,” added Leightley.
“But we are looking at a long term project here. We want to bring the kids on but also have a view to hoping they will break into the first team squad.”