Celtic have the steel to succeed

SIMON Haworth begins his fourth season at Stalybridge Celtic manager with a belief that his side is better equipped than ever to prosper in the Northern Premier League’s premier division.

A summer rebuild has seen Haworth assemble a new-look squad, one packed with experience which has been lacking in previous campaigns.

Ashley Smith Brown

Haworth is convinced the proven players he has recruited will deliver as Celtic bid to become a top rather than bottom-half team.

He said: “Players like Grant Shenton, Connor O’Grady, Stephen Brogan and Sam Wedgbury will give us steel.

“We have a good spine to the team in terms of quality and experience and have some very good players in the middle of the park.

“And in striker Matty Hughes, we have a wily campaigner at this level. He will help up front.

Matty Hughes

“We are a lot stronger as a group, though I would still like to add one of two more quality players, especially up top.”

Haworth’s final piece of the jigsaw was the signing of striker Jack Ryan, 25, from Tamworth. He joins fellow new-boy Sope Awe who has shown up well but lacking experience.

“It is hard to find an experienced striker who scores goals because every team is looking for one of them,” he added.

Haworth is pleased to have landed Ryan who was in Blackburn Rovers’ academy and later played for Preston North End, making one first-team appearance.

Awe, 20, arrived following his release by National League North side Chorley where he had spent the last three years, primarily in their Under-18 and U21 sides.

After each of the last two seasons were cut short due to Covid-19, Celtic are hoping to complete their first campaign since 2018-19.

But their build-up has been interrupted by an outbreak of coronavirus which saw 10 players become infected and had to self-isolate.

Haworth admitted it will be a baptism of fire for his side with the fixture list unkind to his team.

In the opening 10 league games, Celtic play all the teams who are expected to be challenging at the top.

Haworth said: “You cannot hide in our league because there are so many good sides.

“South Shields, who are full-time, will be up there along with the likes of Buxton, Basford, Nantwich and FC United.”

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