OFFICIALS hope a crowd of well over 2,000 will help celebrate a new era for Town and AFC Emley in July.
The clubs meet in their traditional pre-season friendly at the Welfare Ground on Tuesday, July 22 (7.00), with fresh optimism sweeping both camps.
AFC, of course, have former favourite Ian Banks back in charge for the Northern Counties East Division I campaign and are returning to their old colours of claret shirts with light blue sleeves.
Town will be preparing for their centenary season under new manager Stan Ternent with a new-look squad and probably 16,000 season-ticket holders in tow – the £100 offer re-opens on Monday for a final five-day period.
“These are exciting times for both clubs and we would hope to top last-year’s 2,000-plus attendance for the game,” said AFC secretary Richard Poulain.
“Ian Banks is already making an impact with us. We’re returning early for pre-season training, having two sessions a week and he’s keen to get us back in the traditional colours.
“Everything is being done very professionally and we are keen to show when Town come to play us that we are a club going places. We’re very optimistic.”
Town manager Ternent has already strengthened his squad with the arrival of striker Keigan Parker and is busily on the lookout for more players before his League I squad return to training in July.
“I’m not earmarking friendlies as first team or reserves because I want the option to mix and match,” said Ternent.
“Once we get nearer the season proper then, obviously, you’ve got to draw some conclusions, but it’s up to the players to show me in pre-season what they are about.”
Stars like Andy Booth, Danny Cadamarteri, Nathan Clarke and Malvin Kamara played for Town at AFC a year ago.
The AFC fixture slots between two busy weekend’s for Town. They tackle Ternent’s old club Bury at Gigg Lane on Saturday, July 19 (3.00) and the following weekend play in a four-team tournament at Hartlepool which includes Premiership Sunderland and a foreign team still to be confirmed. There are matches on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27.
Town wrap up preparations for the season – which kicks-off on August 9 – with a home friendly against Championship Sheffield United on Saturday, August 2, and the centenary match against Arsenal on Wednesday, August 6.
AFC, meanwhile, entertain York City on Thursday, July 10 (7.30) and they have Football League visitors in the shape of Rotherham United (one of Banks’s old clubs) on Tuesday, August 5.
Poulain added: “We know Town have had a fantastic response to their season-ticket offer, but any time they are away we would be more than happy to see supporters up at the Welfare Ground.
“Our new clubhouse and bar is fully operational and, in addition to new facilities off the pitch, we are very hopeful of a successful season on it.”