WATCH Celtic manager Haworth targets promotion – but not at the expense of stability
Wednesday 25th July 2018 @ 13:34 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

Stalybridge Celtic manager Simon Haworth believes the foundations are in place to embark on a promising season in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.

Haworth’s ambitions are grounded in realism, however, as the former Wigan Athletic striker is prepared for a tough challenge in a competitive division with a massively reduced budget.

Excited by the prospect of bringing smiles back to faces, Haworth said he can’t wait for the season to begin in just over three weeks’ time. Speaking to Reporter Sport before Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat to Curzon Ashton in a pre-season friendly at Bower Fold, the 41-year-old said: “I want to win everything I enter, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want promotion, although I have to be realistic.

“I think we have to take a big step on and off the field; we’ve cut the budget and contracts, so if we can put a competitive team out that betters last year, that’s a huge step forward.

“I’m just trying to get the place going again, because they’ve had three or four seasons of negative results.”

Haworth’s not wrong.

For large periods of last season, Celtic faced the prospect of back-to-back relegations under then manager Steve Burr, and had it not been for a league restructure last summer, in which only one team was relegated from the Evo-Stik Premier Division, Celtic would now be preparing for a life in step eight alongside Droylsden, Mossley and Glossop North End.

Fully aware of the club’s previous misfortune, Haworth has vowed to reverse the trend and is confident of doing so with his army of new players. He said: “I spoke to all of last season’s squad, and there was a big intent to stay, but financially it wasn’t viable for the majority.

“If I’m honest, in one or two cases we wanted to bring in our own people in but the biggest reason was the fact that they were able to hold down moves to bigger clubs in the Conference North, such as Connor Hughes who moved to Curzon.”

Having enjoyed relative success while managing Clitheroe, Haworth has turned to familiar faces for the forthcoming season. Linking up once again are Danny Brady and Ross Dent, who established themselves as fans’ favourites at Shawbridge last season. Haworth believes a blend of youth and experience will serve him well for the season ahead. “The Clitheroe players fit into what we’re trying to do financially, and they’re hungry young lads who want to prove a point. Danny Brady was the centre back we had at Clitheroe, he did extremely well for us and then went to FC United. He was fine there but decided to come back to us towards the back end of last season, so it was a no brainer for me to bring him here.

“Ross Dent – I think everyone needs a Ross Dent – and I think the fans have taken to him already, because he gives 100 per cent and he’s what you need at this level. He’ll get us on the front foot, close down and he won’t take a backwards step. Sometimes that gets the rest of the team going, so he’s our man for that.”

Although he hasn’t announced a captain, Haworth has his eyes on a few players who, in his opinion, are all worthy candidates. “There are a few leaders out there. Matty Wolfenden has been exceptional. He won’t be shouting and screaming but he leads in his actions and his professionalism. Brady has been a captain for me before, so he’s most likely. Liam Tongue has come in and been a real leader as well, so there are two or three options and we’ll decide closer to when the season begins. I’m trying to build a culture where lots of players take lots of responsibility.

“There’s a good feel about the place, and the club is now in a position with structures in place, and we can only get stronger from here.”