THE hard work starts now for 1874 Northwich.

Co-managers Paul Bowyer and Wayne Goodison have reassembled the squad for pre-season training as they prepare for their first ever Northern Premier League campaign.

Familiar faces have returned while several players from the club’s under 21s team have been given the chance to impress and make the step up.

With just over a fortnight until their first pre-season friendly away at Cheadle Town on July 3, time will be spent building the fitness of the squad.

“Everybody’s happy to be back together and we’ve finally got something to focus on,” Goodison said.

“In the first few weeks, we want to get them back to a decent level of fitness.

“We did train prior to finishing in April but we didn’t put any real pressure on the players – we just wanted them to turn up and play.

“It’s a bit more serious now. We’ve planned the pre-season out and we’ll try and get them as ready as we can for when the games start.

“They all wanted to come back. Moving up a league has had an effect on them and it has on myself and Bow.

“There’s a couple of lads we’re having a look at and a few from the 21s joining in but there’s a good group of 26-27 there.

“The 21s played some games in the last month or so and we’ve had chance to watch them. Joe (Lally, under 21s manager) has done a great job with them.

“It would be wrong of us not to try and push them through to see if they can step up.”

The pre-season campaign will feature the twice-delayed 2019-20 Macron Cup Final against Runcorn Town on July 24 before their NPL West Division campaign begins on August 14.

The past two seasons have been shortened by the Covid pandemic and Goodison is confident we have seen the last of those kinds of delays.

“We can all see some proper light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

“I think this time last year, nobody really knew what was going to happen but this time we’re fairly certain.

“Hopefully, there’s no breaks to it.”