Brig success is not guaranteed – boss

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Bamber Bridge have no divine right to win promotion this season.

That is the warning from manager Neil Crowe as Brig start the new NPL First Division North season billed as one of the firm favourites to lift the title.

After finishing third in the table last season and reaching the play-off final in the previous two campaigns, Brig are many people’s picks to finish on top of the pile next April.

That view is further enhanced by the new acquisitions made by Crowe over the summer.

Following on from the high-profile swoops for Preston legends Paul McKenna and Jon Macken last season, the Brig boss has been able to entice ex-Blackpool, North End and Southampton striker Brett Ormerod to the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.

He has been joined by fellow former Tangerines star Jamie Milligan, who has also played for Premier League giants Everton.

Crowe had also raided near neighbours AFC Fylde for Dave Hankin, Joe Booth and Michael Barnes.

Add those names to the quality already at the club in the shape of players such as Alistair Waddecar, Matt Lawlor and Matty Kay, it is understandable why the club is being so heavily backed this term.

“On paper, we are looking very strong,” Crowe said.

“The squad has moved up another notch or two and we are confident we will do well this season.

“But names on paper mean nothing. It is up to those players once they cross that white line to go and prove how good they are.”

It is the first time in many a year that Brig have been one of the favourites to win promotion.

Usually, the men from Irongate are cast as plucky underdogs keen to upset the applecart at the top table.

And Crowe admits there is a different dynamic around the club on the eve of their opening game of the season at home to Warrington Town.

“I think we had a little bit of that (favourites tag) last season,” Crowe said.

“But we have got to the play-off final two years on the trot.

“That adds pressure on us, but we want to keep moving forward as a club.

“I don’t want to just manage in the First Division North for the rest of my life – I want to move up.”

Brig’s results in pre-season have not been too impressive, although most of their games have been against Football League or higher league opposition.

Last Saturday, they were well beaten by last season’s First Division North champions Salford City 4-0, although they were without a number of their big-hitters.

McKenna was absent and will not be available tomorrow, although is likely to make a comeback for the derby clash at Lancaster on Tuesday.

Ormerod was also missing from the clash against the Ammies, but will be in the squad this weekend.

One player who will be out for a while is Macken, who has been struggling with a niggling injury, while Hankin will not be fit until next month.

“Jon will not feature for a bit,” Crowe said. “He’s only played 20 minutes in pre-season.”

Young Salford City goalkeeper Marcus Burgess will make his debut tomorrow.

The 19-year-old stopper has signed on loan for the club and will deputise for Lee Dovey, who is suspended for the first three games of the season.

Manager Neil Crowe was hoping to sign young Preston goalkeeper Steven James, who spent a period on loan at the club previously.

However, an injury picked up by Jamie Jones meant James was needed on the bench as back-up for Jordan Pickford for North End’s opening two games of the season against Middlesbrough and Crewe Alexandra.

Crowe was forced to turn his attentions elsewhere, although James would probably now be available after Preston signed former England keeper Chris Kirkland this week on a one-year deal.

“We were about to sign Steven, but then Jamie Jones got injured and PNE’s goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly rang to say they were not letting him go which is understandable really.

“But they’ve signed Kirkland this week so Steven probably would have been available.

“I’ve signed Marcus now. He’s 19-years-old and is Salford’s No.2.

“He’ll play the next three games while Lee Dovey’s suspended for getting sent-off in the play-offs.”

Crowe, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions that he is ready to make a move for former player Richie Allen, who has been transfer listed by Fylde.

Elsewhere, Clitheroe entertain Prescot Cables and Kendal travel to Farsley.