Can a fourth year follow? It’s certainly what Willcock’s working towards. But considering the amount of money being spent in the NPL first division north this season he’s knows it will be harder than ever to achieve.
“It’ll be more difficult for us to reach the play-offs than it was last year because so many clubs are striving for the same goal — promotion,” said the Surrey Street manager.
“There’s a lot of money floating about which is quite alarming but that’s the nature of where we are. Clubs have come up, others have been relegated, but they all see it as a great opportunity to get up to the next level.
“I don’t think we’re in the bracket of winning the division but I’d like to put us in the right half and up near the play-off places.”
Willcock believes as many as ten clubs have increased their spending so that they can get into the premier division in 2017-18. He sees Colwyn Bay, Lancaster and Colne leading the way, with Tadcaster, Farsley Celtic, Bamber Bridge, Brighouse and even Hyde United following.
He predicts the new campaign will be an intriguing one and very competitive.
As is his way, Willcock has kept his signings close to his chest. He has revealed a few — to give the supporters something to chew on as he puts it — but the fans who travel to Colne on Saturday can expect a few surprises in the starting line-up. He says he has several up his sleeve.
In many ways it will be almost entirely new North End side as many players have retired or moved on. Established men such as the Lugsden brothers, Eddie Moran, Tom Bailey and Matt Russell have all left Surrey Street.
Their replacements, or at least the ones whose names have been revealed so far, include Northwich Victoria left-back Louis Barnes, striker Karl Jones from US club Derby City Rovers, former Hyde midfielder Matty Burke, Northwich Vics right-back Mohamud Ali, Kidsgrove Athletic keeper Ben Chapman and former Curzon Ashton hotshot Mickey Norton.
“As a whole the squad had been together for three years,” Willcock commented. “I suppose it was inevitable that at some point there would be a little shake-up. The players have moved on for various reasons.
“It’s been a wonderful three years but the time came to say goodbye. I thanked them for their efforts and started to reshape the squad.
“Like all pre-season managers I’m hoping to have a successful year. However, supporters need to be mindful that we now have a relatively new group of players and a lot depends on how quickly they gel.
“One thing I can guarantee is that we have spirit and togetherness at Glossop North End and that makes up for pots of money.”