Sunderland RCA manager Martin Swales is looking for consistency from the word go, starting at Penrith tomorrow in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup.
He explained: “Last season, we made a poor start but then improved dramatically to reach the last 16 of the FA Vase.
“When we were knocked out, we went off the rails and struggled towards the end of the season.
“It was like the campaign was in three parts – poor, great and poor.
“This time, we’ve got to make sure that we are up for every game throughout what is a long season.
“I’m optimistic though, having signed six players and lost only a couple.”
A trio of players have come in from Washington, with Greg Swawsbury, James Cassidy and Stephen Stewart making the short switch from the Nissan Sports Complex to Meadow Park.
Other newcomers include keeper Neal Bussey (Sunderland West End), Craig Hodgson (Dunston UTS) and local lad Danny Lay.
“Although I’ve lost Wayne Buchanan, who has returned to Ashington, and Luke Proctor to Seaham Red Star, I believe we are stronger than we were last season,” insisted Swales.
“The key is going to be consistency, but I’m confident we can push on,” enthused Swales.
Seaham Red Star manager Mark Collingwood admits it’s getting harder and harder to sign new players and keep those already on the books.
He explained: “I’ve had my eyes opened this close season. Some clubs are offering silly money, so we’ve put several players on contract.
“I’m happy with the squad and aiming to finish higher than last season’s ninth placing.”
Collingwood has brought in 18 year-old attacking midfielder Lee Hetherington, who was released by Middlesbrough, Tom Price from Sunderland West End and Luke Proctor (RCA). David Palmer, though, has joined South Shields.
Red Star open the season at home to FA Vase winners Morpeth Town in the FA Cup and Collingwood anticipates a keen contest.
“They are a good side so we’ll have to be up for it, but I know we will give them a really good game.
“There’s a lot at stake, including £1500 for the winners,” added Collingwood.
Easington Colliery play in the FA Cup for the first time in more than 20 years when they entertain Northallerton Town and assistant manager Craig Parkinson cannot wait for kick-off.
He said: “We are hoping for another top-six finish in Division Two, but first of all we want to get past tomorrow’s tie. It would be a great send-off if we can reach the next stage.”
Former Sunderland, Burnley and Derby County striker Ryan Noble is the most high profile signing and other newcomers include Lewis Turnbull, Kai Willis, James Atkinson, Jay Martin, Jack Stanger and David Stevens.
Chester-le-Street are back in Division One for the first time in more than 10 years and they kick-off at home to Garforth Town in the FA Cup, while Durham City meet Billingham Synthonia on Teesside.
There is an all-Northern League tie at the Daren Persson Stadium when North Shields have home advantage over Richie McLoughlin’s Jarrow Roofing, while Newcastle Benfield, with eight newcomers in the squad, are confident of seeing off visitors Thackley.
West Auckland head to Heaton Stannington, Whitley Bay entertain Norton and Stockton Ancients and Shildon host Bedlington Terriers.
The Northern League season kicks off with a depleted Division Two programme, with Willington heading to newcomers Stockton Town and Hebburn Town away to the other new club, Blyth Town.