FOR the first time in six years, the top flight of non-League football will have three Yorkshire representatives.
York City’s relegation and the rise of North Ferriby United to previously unscaled heights means there will be plenty of local interest in the National League.
Promotion has to be the Minstermen’s aim, while both Guiseley and the newly-promoted Villagers are the two clubs with the shortest odds to survive. Whether the bookmakers have got it right, only time will tell, but there is no denying the excitement felt at all three White Rose clubs.
“The summer has been good and we are raring to go,” said York chief Jackie McNamara. “My job has been to strip everything down and get back to basics, whether that be defending, attacking as a team or creating the right spirit.
“This season will bring a lot of different challenges, not least the places we visit. It is not so much the matches here at Bootham Crescent that will decide where we finish, but how we handle going to maybe the smaller grounds with tighter pitches and not a lot of support. Places where a long throw can make a big difference.
“It was why we took in Stalybridge Celtic in pre-season, to prepare us for the long throws, the physicality that we can expect and so on. We dealt with it well.”
York kick proceedings off this lunchtime at Maidstone United, while North Ferriby’s fifth-tier bow will come at home to Braintree Town. Steve Housham, who succeeded Billy Heath in the summer, said: “We are massive underdogs but we don’t mind that. I have told the players to be proud against Braintree and to stay that way all season.”
Guiseley make the long trip to Eastleigh with manager Mark Bower having put the emphasis on quality over quantity when recruiting this summer.
“I felt we had one or two too many players last season,” said the Lions’ chief ahead of a campaign that will see three teams competing at this level for the first time since Halifax Town, Farsley Celtic and York did battle in the 2007-08 Conference.
“The squad was too big. So, we have cut things down. I also wanted to bring the average age of the squad down as well. We have brought in hungry lads, and told them, ‘Use this as a springboard, play 45-46 games at this level and get a move into the Football League’.
“As for ourselves, what people perceived as our weaknesses last season were a strength. Teams didn’t like coming to our surrounds.”