AFC Fylde, who kick-off the season tomorrow with a home clash against Stafford Rangers, are already the bookies’ favourite to win the Evo-Stik League premier division title before a ball is even kicked.
Some bookmakers have the Coasters as short as 5-2 to win the title, noting the fact that they have strengthened their squad since last season when they had an agonising promotion near-miss, losing to Hednesford in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the play-off semi-final.
It is a favourites’ tag that manager Dave Challinor hopes his side will wear lightly, but he understands fully the reason why his side are so short in the betting.
He said: “We have a squad that is well capable of getting promotion, but I am sure there are half-a-dozen managers who will say the same thing as I am, but I think we are always going to pose problems for teams going forward.
“The pre-season has gone really well and though people will say that results aren’t important, it gives you momentum for the season.”
AFC Fylde had a busy pre-season, playing nine matches, eight of them away from home – they clocked up seven wins and two draws.
Challinor said: “It’s the big kick-off on Saturday, so all those results go out of the window except for the confidence that it gives the team.”
The Coasters’ boss is happy with the make and shape of his squad, though Sean Cooke, who was named the league’s young player of the year for his scoring exploits, left the club to step up to AFC Telford.
He said: “We missed out on some of our targets because whether they joined us depended on whether we played in a higher division, but I am delighted with the squad.
“The new lads have fitted in brilliantly and the team spirit is fantastic - it is going to be a long season because there are two extra teams in the division this year.
“No-one likes to lose out on the play-offs on penalties as we did last season, but we have to learn from that experience and the players have come back in great shape.
For the Stafford match, Challinor reports that he has a clean bill of health as far fitness is concerned, but there has been a regrettable carry-over from last season.
Michael Taylor and Brad Barnes will be absent from the squad tomorrow as they are both suspended.
Challinor is not certain yet whether he will be able to include Jack Dorney.
He needs international clearance after going over to Australia in the summer to play for the Moreland City club.
Challinor expects to operate on a first team of 20 players this season - joining them to gain experience will be teenagers Ryan Charnley (16) and Jake Gregory (17)
Fylde ins and outs this season.
Ins: Caspar Hughes (from Nantwich) Dave Hankin (Chester) Andy Russell (Chorley) Danny Lloyd (Ex-Lincoln City) Matty Blinkhorn (Hyde) Jamie Rainford (ex-Chester, Halifax) Calvin Hare (Wigan)
Outs: Steve Haslam (coaching job at Sheffield Wednesday) Adam Carden (Nantwich) Adam Farrell, Sean Cooke (Telford).