SIMON Haworth has moved Stalybridge Celtic in a new direction as they prepare for their forthcoming Northern Premier League campaign.
Celtic’s manager, beginning his third season at Bower Fold, has made a marked change to his recruitment policy.
Unable to compete with the top premier division teams financially for senior and well-established names, Celtic have gone down a different route.
“We cannot sign big names and are looking for young, hungry, fit lads who want to learn and get better,” he explained.
Some are players who have been at league clubs while others have been snapped up from clubs in lower divisions.
Haworth pointed to young central defender Tom Wilson, who was at Sheffield United.
He said: “Players like Tom have talent to be at a professional club.
“Tom has played throughout pre-season and you can see his confidence growing and he looks a non-league centre half.”
Haworth added it is a huge transition from academy football to the physicality of the men’s game which some players are unable to adjust.
The case of Tyler Williams, a highly rated central defender signed in the summer after his release from Preston North End, was a point. He was allowed to leave not long after arriving.
Haworth can see similarities to his first season as manager at Clitheroe when they went down a similar route of signing players who were not recognised names.
They included the like of Alex Newby and Kurt Willoughby who are now at Rochdale and AFC Fylde respectively.
Haworth believes the premier division can be split into two leagues, those with financial muscle and the remainder.
He points to the calibre of players signed by South Shields, Basford United, Buxton, Matlock and Witton Albion as an example.
Haworth added it is Celtic’s goal to “hopefully be underdog and overachieve” adding they have previously shown glimpses.
Last Christmas, for example, they were fourth in the table but were hit by the sale of star striker Darius Osei to South Shields.
“We should be trying to break into the top 10 and, if we do, go for the top eight and then may be top six,” he said.
Haworth believes progress has been made during his tenure.
He said: “I feel we are moving forward but it is slow progress.
“I followed Steve Burr who had possibly the biggest budget in the league as Celtic wanted to go straight back up to National League North which didn’t happen.
“My budget was halved, and we stayed up on the last day of my first year but last season there were shoots of recovery.
“We needed somebody to put the break on because it had been sliding out of control.
“We have had two years of consolidation and hopefully Stalybridge is now recognised as a stable club and we can move it forward.”