Sheffield FC column: Club in optimistic mood ahead of new Northern Premier League season
So pre-season is behind us, we have fans back in non-league grounds and we have played our first FA Cup game - everything almost feels normal at the moment!
Obviously not everything is normal.
The club hasn’t been unaffected by the pandemic and finances have taken a hit at all levels of football but we can only worry about ourselves and keep moving forwards.
Most of the squad from last season have returned. There’s a good mix of experience and youth and a few new faces have joined.
Our FA Cup campaign began last Saturday at Holbeach United and the team turned in a thoroughly professional display to win 4-0 against a side just one level below us.
Hopefully we can carry the positives from that into the next round and our opening league fixtures.
The Northern Premier League season begins on Saturday at Newcastle Town, which is always a tough place to go. That’s followed by home games against Stocksbridge Park Steels and Stamford.
Often a factor at this level is how regularly you can call on your important players around other commitments.
One example is goalkeeper Jonathan Hedge who brings a wealth of experience to the side but is often unavailable because of work. We are lucky that we also have a fantastic young goalkeeper in Owen Evans who has been impressive in pre-season.
Full backs Jamie Green and Josh Burns have been brought in from Gainsborough and Stafford respectively and the pair have settled very quickly. Alongside experienced defenders such as Lee Cooksey, Stuart Ludlam and Rob Darkin we have a strong base to build from.
Midfielder Adam Chapman will arguably be our most important player. At our level someone who has well over 100 Football League appearances to his name is always going to be important and whilst he is on the pitch the side will always be hard to beat.
Young Cody Prior, who has joined the club from Doncaster Rovers, has the ability to take hold of a game by the scruff of the neck, while the experience and versatility of Ashley Grayson is a big plus for us.
In attack the focal point is Marc Newsham, our top scorer for the last two seasons and another player with experience at a higher level.
He scored a hat trick in last weekend’s FA Cup win and looks as sharp as ever at 33 years of age.
The other goal at Holbeach was scored by 17-year-old Ryan Viggars. If we can keep him on loan from Sheffield United for a little longer he could certainly add a fair few more.
With Sheldon Jordan and youngsters Alex Wonham and Max Rhodes adding energy to the attack there are plenty of reasons to feel positive.
It’s always hard to set out expectations and this year it’s even harder.
Some clubs are going to be struggling with finances, while some will see this as a chance to take advantage and spend on a promotion push.
I can see the league table being more spread out than usual with some teams really struggling and a few being very strong from the off.
If we keep this squad together we can hopefully challenge at the right end of the table.