Garstang FC manager hopes to complete his first full season in charge
Richard Cookney hopes it will be a case of third time lucky when Garstang FC start their season on Saturday.
They welcome new boys Campion to the Riverside on day one of the NWCFL First Division North campaign.
The previous two seasons have ended early as a result of the pandemic, meaning Cookney is yet to have a full year in charge after replacing Andy Payton in August 2019.
Cookney said: “I was thinking about this the other week.
“This is the third year I’ll have had at Garstang and we haven’t managed to play a full season yet because of Covid.
“Hopefully, that will be behind us and we can try to return to something like normality.”
His two previous seasons might have ended early but Cookney is full of optimism for 2021/22, having seen friendly victories over Kendal Town, Storeys of Lancaster and Galgate.
Day one, however, brings a challenge against a Campion side who are new to the competition.
The Bradford-based club moved over from the Northern Counties East League during the FA’s summer restructuring of the non-league pyramid.
Another home game follows next Wednesday when St Helens Town visit the Riverside with the aim being to capitalise on home advantage.
It might be easier said than done this weekend, however, given Garstang and Campion may be going into the game blind.
“I had wanted to go and watch them in pre-season,” Cookney said.
“We might not know a lot about them but they might not know a lot about us either.
“They have been quite fortunate though because they were the team in our league who were drawn to play in the FA Cup this season!
“I’m really happy the first two games are at home. We want to make it a bit of a fortress and there’s no reason why we can’t.”
Key to that will be how quickly the squad settles with a number of new faces at the Riverside over the close season.
The vast majority of last season’s squad have stayed put but Cookney admitted he wanted an injection of fresh blood.
“The first thing I try and do is retain everyone from the year before and then add to it,” he explained.
“I had a couple of targets in mind and then you usually see a couple come out of nowhere, which is what happened this year.
“Zach Clark is someone I’ve known about for years and we knew we needed a striker.
“I thought we’d wait and see what happened after that and we got Jack Hamilton, Ben Glendon and Corey Harrison.
“Last year, we had 22 players who wanted to start every game.
“Now we’ve got 16 or 17 but I wouldn’t have any issues dropping someone if they had been unavailable.
“We’ve kept the lads from last year but added more quality this year.
“I’m really happy with the squad. It’s probably the best squad I’ve managed so I’m really excited about it.”
Campion are joined this season by fellow new boys Ilkley Town and South Liverpool, filling the gap created by the departures of Prestwich Heys, Lower Breck and AFC Liverpool.
Although they have moved into the top flight, Cookney believes it will still be a competitive division in their absence.
He said: “You look at someone like Bury AFC, who I think were top when the season ended early.
“They beat us comfortably at home (5-1) but, away, it was only in the last few minutes that they pulled clear and won 3-1.
“There are a lot of good teams in the division though. You look at AFC Darwen and think they have to be up there, while we don’t know a lot about the new teams either – so it looks like being a good season ahead.”
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