IF you needed Northwich teams in the North West Counties League’s top-flight to give an indication of their ambitions for next season then they’ve obliged.

However the transfer market isn’t the place to look for clues.

On the contrary, proof is provided by who is staying put and what both clubs have done to make sure they do.

Between them, they have tied five players to a contract until this time in 2020.

For 1874, goalkeeper Tony Aghayere, wide-man Taylor Kennerley and Scott McGowan – their leading goal-scorer again last term – will be paid every week no matter what.

They’re considering whether to add a fourth name to that list too.

Vics have made a similar commitment to Danny Taberner, their number one, and defender Kieron Kenny.

In each case, it is unprecedented.

1874 have never had more than two players contracted in the same season, while their neighbours are doing so for the first time since supporters took ownership of the club.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t really believe in it at this level,” Steve Wilkes, Vics’ manager, told the Guardian.

“But we felt we had no choice if we wanted to stop those two players leaving.”

For him losing either, in Kenny’s case to a direct rival for promotion after attracting interest from Congleton Town, would be the worst possible outcome.

He feels that way despite increasing his options in defence after recruiting former Witton Albion man Michael Wilson.

However keeping intact Kenny’s partnership with Brandon Barski at the heart of Vics’ backline is worth the extra investment.

“I also think Tabs is the best goalkeeper in the league,” added Wilkes.

“How would we replace him?”

Coincidentally, 1874 feel the same about Aghayere.

After Greg Hall left last summer they tried four alternatives – Josh Samberg, Matthew Green, James Coates and Dane Rigby – before the 22-year-old made his debut in January.

He played 17 games, shutting out the opposition in eight of them.

“In Tony’s case, at least for from our point of view, it was important to make sure history didn’t repeat,” said co-manager Wayne Goodison.

“We’ve learned our lesson, and goalkeeper has become a premium position because there aren’t many good ones around at our level.

“Fortunately, the board agreed and have backed us.”

With Kennerley, 1874 are undoubtedly protecting their most prized asset.

He is still only 21, and enjoyed his best season as a senior last time out by adding goals – more than a dozen of them in total – to an already-impressive range of attributes.

Contracted since December, he has signed an extension.

Goodison said: “He knows what we think of him, and he feels the same about us.”

It isn’t always a defensive move to put pen to paper in this way.

After scoring close to 80 goals in the past two seasons McGowan, who much to treasurer John Coats’ relief doesn’t receive a bonus every time he finds the net, has earned a reward.

He turns 32 in the next fortnight and perhaps a chance to play in the Northern Premier League’s top-flight, for example, has passed.

Such is his affection for Northwich though, that he’d likely need a substantial offer to make him think twice.

“It is a different scenario with Scott,” said Goodison.

“He is older than the other two, for a start.

“But he’s a guy who responds to knowing he’s the main man, and we told him that’s how we saw him when he came back.

“This is our way of recognising his contribution.”

1874 hope to unveil the identity of three new recruits next week.

So far just one player, full-back Paul Connor, has left this summer.

It is a similar scenario for Vics, who have also confirmed a trio signings.

Of those who have departed, only captain Brad Cooke and midfielder Dom Craig started regularly last term.

Wilkes said: “Last summer we needed an overhaul. But this time it’s been about making tweaks here and there.”

In football, like in life, it’s difficult to foresee the future.

Kennerley may not continue the upward trajectory he is currently on, or Taberner may change his mind and follow Cooke – one of his best friends – to West Didsbury & Chorlton following his appointment there as manager.

However, for now at least, 1874 and Vics are sensible to make plans based on what they know.

And contracts help them hold on to what they have.