Charnock Richard manager Andy Westwell is relishing the new challenge of competing in the Hallmark Security League, after the club made the step up from the West Lancashire League last season.
There’s no doubt that the team has quickly found its feet, as their current second place position in Division One confirms, and as Andy explained, the club’s move upwards is something that has been planned for some time after they enjoyed continued success in the West Lancashire League.
“Coming into the North West Counties is something we wanted to do, but we always wanted to have everything in place correctly, and get the ground and the infrastructure of the club right”, said Andy.
“That is why it took so long, the club waited until it was the right time, and we have moved on from there.
“Last season I spoke to the players and told them what the club was considering doing and asked if they all wanted to make that step up, and they all said yes apart from a couple who couldn’t because of work commitments.
“So we started looking at it then to decide what we were going to do, and from then we had our eye on this season. But maybe it took a little bit of focus off the end of last season for us, because we tailed off a bit towards the end”.
Although promotion was always on the cards from early on last season, Andy says each game now presents a challenge to him and his squad as there is still an unknown element involved with regard to the teams they are now facing.
“It is like a new adventure for us to meet all these new teams and new people, and playing at all the different grounds”, he said.
“In the West Lancs League, if we were drawn against a team in a cup game we didn’t know much about, we would try to watch them before, but we haven’t so far in this league, because you haven’t got time to do anything with games Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday.
“I never got to watch any North West Counties games myself last season, although I did send someone to watch a few games in Division One to give me an idea of the standard, what the pitches were like and so on, so we had a look in that sense.
“I have looked at match reports on teams we are about to play, but we haven’t done much on the scouting side, we’ve just taken it as it comes”.
It’s certainly been an approach that has worked for Charnock Richard so far, although Andy believes that the best is yet to come from his squad.
“We’ve done very well away from home, although the home form has been a bit of a concern”, he admitted.
“I think that maybe sometimes teams have come here and seen we have a nice setup and good pitch, and thought ‘we can have a go here’.
“It’s taken us a bit of time to adjust because in the West Lancs, teams would come here to sit in and we would get at them and they were 1-0 down before they knew it.
“But teams aren’t like that in this league, and we have to get our mindset right and stop teams playing here. So if we can sort our home form out, I don’t think we’ll do badly.
“But I do know that on our day, my team are good enough to compete with every team in this league, and that is all I ask of them. We have got some quality in our team and a bit of pace, and I know if we give 100% every game, home and away we’ll be competitive in every single game.
“One other thing that will help us is that we are getting the full squad back now, because we have struggled a bit with injuries.
“I’ve never had what I would say is my strongest team out yet, so once I get my strongest 11 or 16 out regularly we will know better where we are.
“Once we get to Christmas and New Year I’ll start looking and thinking, ‘OK where are we – are we in a relegation dogfight, in the play offs or whatever’.
“At that point my target will change, but up to then it’s about competing, pick up as many points as we can, and let’s see where we are at the turn of the year”.