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A New Season Dawns
Thursday 6th August 2015 @ 11:39 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

Stalybridge Celtic and Curzon Ashton begin their National League North campaign this Saturday.

The two clubs enter the new season having endured opposite fortunes last term.

Despite suffering a perilous nine months, Celtic retained their step six status on the last day of the season, following a 4-4 draw with Gainsborough Trinity.

Curzon were the polar opposite.

The club will be playing at the highest level in their 52 year history, having achieved back to back promotions under manager John Flanagan.

Thanks to a 1-0 victory against Ilkeston during the play-off final in May, Curzon can look forward to encounters with Stockport County and Boston United.

Following the play-off victory, Aaron Flanagan spoke to Reporter Sport and said: “I never thought that Conference North was ever going to happen, especially from the day my dad took over in 2011.

“If we finish above Stalybridge next season, then we’ve gone from being the second worst team in Tameside to the best since my dad’s been here.”

While suggestions of a third consecutive promotion are rare, excitement is building nonetheless.

Flanagan has bolstered his squad in recent weeks, introducing former Mossley player John Bennett to the Tameside Stadium.

Add defenders Danny Taylor and Dieter Towney to the growing list, and it’s clear to see why the club are eager to begin their new footballing chapter.

Matters off the pitch are just as positive, as the appointment of new club director Natalie Woodford will testify.

Curzon appear to have continued where they left off last term, winning five of their seven pre-season fixtures.

Meanwhile, Celtic are the opposite in that respect, losing five of their eight friendly contests.

However, the club did manage to lift the Ray Stanley memorial Shield against Hyde, thus taking the bragging rights in the process.

As optimism increases around Bower Fold, so will expectations.

Manager Liam Watson knows what it takes to overcome the odds.

The 44-year-old has won the National League North three times as manager, once with Telford United and twice with Southport.

Providing the players live up to their reputation, the chances of repeating those feats are fairly substantial.

Watson has assigned the role of captaincy and vice-captaincy to Matty Hughes and goalkeeper Tony McMillan.

If Celtic are to push for promotion this season, then the latter, having previously played for Watson at Southport in 2008, will need to use his vast experience.

Having impressed at Ashton United last year, Jack Higgins has opted to put pen to paper at Bower Fold.

The 24-year-old proved to be a huge success at Hurst Cross, not only picking up the player of the season award, but scooping the Evo-Stik centre half of the year trophy too.

Watson has also strengthened the attacking line-up.

Chris Simm, who was instrumental in Celtic’s great escape last season, will be joined by Steve Tames and Alex Johnson, who have signed from Hyde and Guiseley respectively.

Adam Farrell will also be jostling for a starting position, having re-joined Watson for a second spell.

The 25-year-old has joined from Telford, where he scored 17 goals in their Conference north title-winning season.

Celtic are holding a question and answer session tonight ahead of their opening day clash at Hednesford Town.