A TOP three finish is the target for West Allotment Celtic according to player manager Paul Stoneman.
Pre-season is well under way and Stoneman has already made his intentions for the campaign ahead known, suggesting that his side will be looking to vastly improve on last year’s seventh place finish and could even be challenging for a promotion place come the home straight.
“It’s simple for me – this season my goal is a top three finish, anything else I will see as a disappointment,” he said.
Allotment finished strongly last term to secure a place in the top half of the Northern League division two and it’s the same kind of form which Stoneman hopes his players can instantly rediscover with a rigorous pre-season schedule.
He said: “I’ve been happy with the way things are shaping up, it’s been hard but so is every pre-season and the lads are responding very well.”
Stoneman can definitely consider himself one of the more fortunate managers in the division with 42 players turning up to the inaugural training session, a luxury which allowed Allotment to produce an entirely different line-up in each half of their opening pre-season encounter against Billingham Synthonia.
That number will have been cut down to just 19 by the time the season kicks off.
“The trials have been a huge success,” Stoneman said.
“If we can get three or four good lads from that, which we will judging by the first few sessions, then it’ll all have been worth it.”
The additions could be left with big boots to fill as a few high profile players may not yet be pulling on the green and white hoops next season.
David Henderson has been sidelined for the majority of the upcoming season after a knee operation and Gary Day’s form in front of goal has seen him become the subject of numerous offers.
And Liam McIvor is unsure over his future as paternal duties may force his footballing career to take a back seat after the birth of his daughter.
Despite the absences, there are no other notable names missing from last year’s squad, the majority having returned to provide Stoneman and his coaching staff of Wilf Kielty and Paul Hogg a sound nucleus to work with.
The manager is aware of the financial difficulties surrounding the club but feels that they should not inhibit his side’s aspirations.
“We’ve lost some money but that’s to be expected, and there are a lot of clubs in the same boat as us.”
Stoneman has no problems putting himself in the firing line and has made known where he wishes his side to be next season: “I guess I am putting the pressure on myself but I feel strongly that we’ve got the makings of a first division team, both on and off the field.”
West Allotment’s pre-season schedule sees travel to Ashington for a 7pm kick-off on Wednesday, July 25, before meeting Shankhouse on Saturday, July 28, at 2.30pm.
Their penultimate pre-season match sees them travel to Wheatridge Park to see them take on Northern Alliance side Seaton Delaval in a 6.45pm kick-off on Wednesday, August 1, before rounding off their schedule with a trip to Cullercoats on Saturday, August 4, at 2.30pm.
The season finally gets under way for Allotment on Saturday, August 11, when Selby Town visit the Blue Flames ground in the FA Cup.