SIMON WEAVER insists Harrogate Town should embrace being at the forefront of the betting for Vanarama North promotion – and not be intimidated by it.
After two campaigns where they have tentatively flirted with making the play-offs, ambitious Town are thinking big in their quest to make it third time lucky, if their eye-catching summer recruitment is anything to go.
The purse strings have been loosened to enable the likes of former Guiseley and Atrincham goal predator James Walshaw and North Ferriby hitman Ryan Kendall to join the CNG Stadium outfit, with those dual signings and the arrivals of several others having not escaped the attentions of bookmakers, who rate them as second favourites.
Former Tamworth central midfielder Lloyd Kerry is among other headline recruits, with the likes of former Leeds United players Simon Lenighan and Lewis Turner, ex-York City defender David McGurk, former Bradford City midfielder Luke Dean and one-time Guiseley defender Rhys Meynell among others to sign on the dotted line.
The upshot is that Town, along with the likes of favourites Barrow, Yorkshire rivals Guiseley and Hednesford, are being tipped to be in the promotion shake-up with Weaver now hoping his side can ‘walk the walk.’
On being among the bookies’ favourites and the notion of increased expectation on Town’s shoulders, Weaver said: “It’s nice to have that. We have recruited well and it’s over to the players now.
“If we had not recruited well, the bookies would have put us at 24-1 or 25-1 or whatever and fancied other teams ahead of us.
“With the players we have brought in, nothing fazes them and they are all competitive.
“We have had to shake-up it up a bit. I think we just managed to squeeze out what we could out of the squad last year and if it was not for the injuries, we might have finished in the play-offs.
“After just missing out two years on the trot, we thought we needed to add ‘legs’ and we have done.
“It’s now about keeping people fit and chomping at the bit. We have got good competition for places and brought in the likes of James and Ryan, who have good reputations and we hope to do well and go again.
“With James and Ryan, we also have, Lloyd Kerry who was player of the year at Tamworth and Lewis Turner who got player of the year at Chester. We have players who have put in performances at their other clubs.”
He added: “I think it will be tougher than last year when we finished ninth and we will be up for continual progression. It would be brilliant to get in the play-offs in a fantastic league.”
The capture of marksman Walshaw, who has hit the goal trail for a number of sides over the years and was part of the Altrincham team who downed his former club Guiseley to claim promotion to the Conference via the play-offs last spring, is a particular coup for Town.
Weaver admits he has been an unabashed fan of Walshaw’s for a number of years and not just because of his goalscoring prowess either.
He said: “James is one of those who is in the right place at the right time and he has that nuisance factor, which I know, having played against him.
“I have also had a few in the ribs from him as well and I like that. He is aggressive and horrible to play against and certainly not going to be fazed.”
Town have been handed a tough opener at home to another side tipped to be among the league’s movers and shakers in Tamworth, with the game seeing Kerry – a popular player with supporters during his time at the Lamb Ground – lock horns with his former side at the CNG Stadium.
Acknowledging it will be a big test of their early credentials, Weaver added: “Tamworth have spent a lot of players and are having a real good go at it, so we know they are going to be one of the fancied ones and right up there.
“So it is going to be a good test.
“It would be nice to get off to a good start and both sides will be going for it.”