Fulwood and Broughton are not quite stepping into the unknown when they begin their Northern League Division One campaign this weekend.
Mark Smith’s men may be preparing for their first game at this level after winning promotion from the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division last season, but there will be a familiar feeling in the bellies of the players.
F&B travel to Garstang – the club which they were promoted with last summer.
Smith admitted that it was a little ironic that the two teams had been paired together on the opening day.
“We all laughed when the fixtures came out and we saw that we were playing each other,” Smith said.
“We were promoted together last season and they are a team we know well. It’s going to be interesting.”
Despite the familiarity of this weekend, Smith admits the rest of the campaign is going to be a giant leap into the unknown.
“When we made the decision to take up the option of promotion to the Northern League, one of the major reasons was seeing all the new grounds and playing against new players,” he said.
“It’s going to be exciting, but also a step into the unknown.
“We’ve no idea how we will do. We think we have a good team and we haven’t done too badly against Northern League teams when we have played them in cup competitions in the past, but we really don’t know.”
F&B – who are expected to field largely the same team which finished runners-up last summer – have signed Lancashire spinner Simon Kerrigan as their professional.
Smith is hopeful he will be available on a regular basis.
“We’re hoping that they will give him permission to play for us most weeks,” he said.
Leyland skipper David Makinson admits the new Northern League season will have a slight ly different feel to it this season.
After the introduction of promotion and relegation last year, the veteran seamer will have a couple of new grounds to visit after Garstang and Fulwood & Broughton’s elevation to Division One.
Their places in the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division have been taken by Kendal and Lancaster, who suffered relegation.
Makinson revealed it will be strange not travelling to Shap Road and Lune Road this year, but is interested to see how the two new clubs adapt at this level.
“Obviously Lancaster and Kendal will be missed,” said Makinson.
“I’ve been playing against them for the last 30-odd years and I know a lot of people up there so I will miss playing against them.
“Hopefully, Garstang and Fulwood will enjoy themselves and do well.
“There is no reason why they should not do.”
Fulwood have got Lancashire’s Simon Kerrigan which will be a massive bonus for them.
“I think they will do all right.”
Makinson – who may miss this weekend’s opener at home to Morecambe with a shoulder injury – is hoping Leyland can improve upon last season when they finished in third spot.
The 2016 champions, they finished a sizeable 73 points behind champions Kendal.
“I’m hoping it will be a bit better than last year because we had a bit of poor spell that put us out of the title race,” Makinson said.
“Really there was only Netherfield ever going to win the competition, there was no pressure put on them at all really.”
Leyland have secured the services of Pakistani all-rounder Umar Waheed as their overseas professional.
He has come highly recommended by former Fox Lane pro Atif Ashraf, who starred for Leyland Motors in the early 2000s
“He has been recommended by one of our old professionals Atif Ashraf,” said Makinson.
“He can bat – over in Pakistan he has a really good average in first class cricket. If he can bat a long time and pick up a few wickets we will be happy.”
Elsewhere, Chorley will be hoping pro Gayan Maneeshan can produce the goods like he did last season.
The Sri Lankan scored 599 runs and will be hoping to hit the ground running when local rivals Preston arrive at Windsor Park on Saturday.
On Sunday, Chorley have a re-arranged National Knockout match against Lostock, which also takes place at home.
Northern League: Blackpool v Barrow, Chorley v Preston, Fleetwood v Netherfield, Garstang v Fulwood and Broughton, Leyland v Morecambe, St Annes v Penrith.
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division: Croston v Kendal, Great Eccleston v Longridge, New Longton v Vernon Carus, South Shore v Eccleston, Thornton Cleveleys v Penwortham, Torrisholme v Lancaster.