The youth team get their North West Youth Alliance season underway this weekend when they face local rivals Fleetwood Town.
Ciaran Donnelly’s side will start the season two weeks later than most other sides in the league due to their pre-season tour of The Netherlands, organised by the LFE.
However, the tour has given the manager a good chance to assess his squad ahead of the challenges to come.
“I’m optimistic for the new season because it’s been a really good pre-season. We’ve had some positive results and really positive performances,” Donnelly said.
“We’ve had a chance to bond as a squad and we’ve got good numbers in the squad, so I’m confident we can have a really good season. I’m looking forward to seeing how the team and individuals develop.”
Donnelly is looking to get the season started on the front foot and show his side’s quality by getting all three points this weekend.
“They’re an upcoming academy, they’ve now gone to Category 3 status so they’re trying to make steps to catch us up in the academy levels.
“It’s our job to show that we’re still ahead of them and that we can be for the foreseeable future. It’s a good test and means a lot to me as a coach and to our players, it’s a chance to show that we’re an established academy and we want to show people how good we are.”
As well as going abroad, some of the scholars have played for the senior team during pre-season.
“It gives them an opportunity to see what it’s like at first team level but it also gives the whole squad a chance to realise that it’s not that far away if they knuckle down and really commit themselves to the life of a professional footballer.
“It doesn’t just get handed to you on a plate, the rewards are so high and it’s so competitive that you’ve got to commit your life to it and if you do then you might have half a chance of making a good career for yourself.”
Last season the Under-18s manager guided his team to a fifth place finish in the league and also reached the final of the Lancashire FA Youth Cup.
“We had a solid season last year and I would like to improve on that this year and I think we’re capable of improving.
“I hope I don’t have to eat my words as the season goes on but from what I’ve seen and the players I know we’ve got, I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t be challenging for the league title and putting some cup runs together.
“The main aim is to get players to become professionals and get opportunities with the first team but at the same time we want to do well as an Under-18s group.”
The game against Fleetwood Town takes place at Poolfoot Farm at 11am tomorrow.