After achieving a notable promotion last season Spennymoor Town manager Jason Ainsley has spent the summer building on the foundations of their success.
The Moors won promotion into the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League’s top flight with a 2-0 play-off final win over Northwich Victoria.
That victory, and the subsequent promotion, has allowed Ainsley to bring in a number of notable additions.
Amongst them are Gateshead trio James Curtis, Rob Ramshaw and Jamie Chandler, as well as former Middlesbrough and Guiseley striker Tom Craddock.
Those additions have boosted an already talented squad, but Ainsley believes that his new signings were only possible because of their promotion last season.
“When you get promoted new avenues open up” he said.
“If we hadn’t been promoted I’m not sure these players would have come to the club.
“Yes, they look at the setup and would buy into that but it only gets you so far.
“The division below may have been a drop too far for these lads and it’s amazing that after promotion people start knocking on your door.
“Four or five years ago you were making hundreds of calls and maybe two or three would come off but now you can pick and choose what calibre of player you can bring in”
A number of the Moors’ new boys received offers from around the non-league pyramid, including several from EBAC Northern League clubs.
And Ainsley paid tribute to the attitude of his new signings for their willingness to continue their careers trying to help the Moors achieve another historic promotion.
“People say that Spennymoor Town are paying this wage and that wage but the lads we have brought in could have easily got that money in the Northern League.
“That is the beauty of the lads we signed from Gateshead or professional clubs, they want to stay at as high a standard as they can.
“That’s all they have known and you can only fish in that market if you are at a decent level.
“We have now done that and now we have fresh challenges ahead of us going to totally different clubs, big club with big expectations”
Big expectations are something that Ainsley has come to live with throughout his two decades with the Moors.
After winning four Northern League titles and a historic FA Vase triumph, Ainsley is now preparing himself to take on a new pressure.
But it is one that he is prepared for.
Ainsley shrugged off any suggestion that he would be looking to stabilise in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League’s top tier this season, preferring to target following in Darlington’s footsteps and securing a consecutive promotions.
“I am a great believer in you go into the season wanting to be successful” said Ainsley.
“I can’t believe it when people say they want to stabilise in a league, for me you have a forty six game season and you want to do as well as you can and get promoted.
“That’s not me being arrogant or disrespectful to others.
“They’ll have the same vision and goal as us and there are teams in there that know this league so it won’t be easy.
“We have been Spennymoor Town for ten years so the progression we have made on and off the pitch is excellent.
“With that is expectation and some fans didn’t know the old Spennymoor when we use to win, lose and draw, so we have to cope with that now”
However, the former Hartlepool United midfield did concede that his side face their biggest step yet, as the club moves into step three of the non-league pyramid.
A strong-looking division awaits them, with several of non-league football’s biggest names
competing in the league.
That left Ainsley to describe what lies in wait as a “big challenge”.
“The next step is the biggest yet.
“There is a different pressure, so for example in the Vase we were expected to do well because the North East has always done well in the competition.
“When we won it I think it was more of a relief, not excitement.
“We knew we had to win the Northern League because the chairman had the plan of three promotions in five years so we had to win that.
“Last year was the biggest one because I think if we had stayed in that league we may have stagnated but now we take on another big challenge”
If bookmakers are to be believed, Ainsley’s Spennymoor Town side are amongst the favourites to win promotion into step two, rated as 8/1 third favourites.
Newly relegated Hednesford Town and the Evo-Stik battled-hardened trio of Ashton United, Blyth Spartans and Workington make up the top five in the odds to win a division Ainsley believes has “no easy games”.
He was honest in his assessment as those odds were put to him, believing that his recruitment over the summer, and the recent success of other promotion clubs were the reasons behind the bookmakers tips.
“Maybe people have looked at what we have signed in the summer and the fact a lot of club like Darlington, Salford and Curzon have gone straight up after promotion.
“We play Hednesford Town on Saturday and three months ago we were two leagues apart.
“They were National League North, we were Evo-Stik First Division North, so it is a massive test for us.
“Then we face Warrington Town and they walked away with our league last year.
“I look at the fixture list and the teams we play. I don’t see an easy game in there, maybe I am being reserved but I don’t see an easy game coming any time soon, that’s because we are going into the unknown again and it is a good challenge for us as a club”