Just as was the case 12 months ago, many have been quick to write off the Lions’ seasonal prospects and have bracketed them as relegation fodder, with Bower’s side opening up with a long trip to Eastleigh tomorrow.
Despite Guiseley performing their own version of the Great Escape in 2015-16 to survive following a dramatic 4-3 final-day win over Torquay United at Nethermoor, Bower believes there is no reason why his side cannot prove a surprise package in the forthcoming season, with his mindset fortified by some high-profile examples in the footballing world during 2016.
Bower, who has brought in several new players including Altrincham duo Nicky Clee and Michael Rankine, defenders Ashley Palmer and Danny East and midfielder Javan Vidal, said: “People will write us off again no doubt and the bookies have us down as second favourites to go down and we have to go out and prove people wrong again.
“We can definitely use it as motivation. Performances probably were not quite matched by our results last year and if we can get a little bit of luck all the way and we keep people fit and things start going our way rather than against us, we can definitely improve on last year.
“You look at football over the past year with Leicester and Wales and Braintree in our league last year in terms of what can be achieved. I am not saying we are going to go to those levels. But you can catch people by surprise.”
Imposing is the best way to describe the Lions’ opening month of the season.
It is littered with fixtures against sides tipped to be firmly in the promotion shake-up, including Wrexham and Dagenham and Redbridge, who they face at home next week along with tomorrow’s opponents Eastleigh and much-fancied Tranmere Rovers, who both just missed out on the play-offs last term. It is a fact duly acknowledged by Bower, but he believes that he and his side are certainly much wiser following last season’s experiences.
Bower, who completed the signing of former Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Preston to increase his striking options on Wednesday, added: “Last season, we got that first away game out of the way (at Welling) and then we thought that we had got two home games to look forward to and we really cashed in when we won on the Tuesday and Saturday by getting six points out of the first three games. If we start like that this time, then we will be really well happy with that. The first three teams who we played last season ended up being relegated and I don’t think that will be the case this time and it will be tough.
“But we learned a few lessons last season and know what to expect and hopefully we will be better equipped for it.”
Bower has further added to the capture of Preston this week, with the additions of ex-Sheffield United and Scunthorpe left-back Marcus Williams and experienced keeper Tim Deasy.
WHEN it came to Harrogate Town’s close-season transfer business, Simon Weaver’s determination to steal a march on the club’s National League North rivals was self-evident.
The Town boss completed several deals in early summer, while several of his managerial rivals were no doubt sunning themselves in some warm foreign climes and he is hoping that his early work bears fruit as the ambitious outfit seek to finally turn their promotion dreams into reality.
Agonisingly, Town, after an excellent regular season, lost out in the play-offs to AFC Fylde in the spring, with the blow compounded when the club’s top-scorer and striking talisman from last season in Brendon Daniels joined the Coasters in the close season.
The arrivals of Jon-Paul Pitmann and Chib Chilaka should help mitigate for the loss of Daniels, with Weaver also busy in boosting other areas of his squad, with the emphasis being on hardened experience.
Weaver, whose side open up with a long trip to Worcester City tomorrow, said: “We are happy with our lot. Even though we lost Brendon Daniels, we feel that we will score more goals as a collective unit. At any level, it is about getting the balance right and we feel we have got that this season.
“We did our business quite early on, starting with Simon Ainge at the back. We wanted to strengthen and stop silly goals going in too regularly and having Simon at the back does increase competition.
“There’s obviously Ben Parker too and he has done excellently for Guiseley over the past few years and it was a surprise to be able to get him on a free. We have also brought Joe Leesley and Andi Thanoj from Alfreton, whle Chib Chilaka has come back from Park Avenue after two good years there.
“Then, there’s JP Pittman from Grimsby and we are delighted with that signing as well, along with Wayne Brooksby from Guiseley.”
On the outgoing front this week, Louie Swain has signed for Spennymoor Town, after two seasons at The CNG Stadium.
Meanwhile, FC Halifax, whose manager Billy Heath has named ex-North Ferriby skipper Liam King as the new captain at the Shay, start life back in the division with a trip to Nuneaton Town.
Heath will be hoping that the start to the new campaign goes as swimmingly as pre-season, which saw Halifax catch the eye in a seven-match unbeaten streak which produced three wins, four draws and 19 goals.
Bradford Park Avenue visit Gainsborough.
The Northern Counties Eastern League returns as clubs from across both divisions play in the FA Cup first preliminary round as well as the league, writes TOBY BILTON.
With the majority of teams in action in the Cup, there are no league fixtures in the Premier Division.
In Division One, Selby and Glasshoughton Welfare travel to Rossington and Hall Road Rangers respectively, while Yorkshire Amateur host Worsbrough Bridge.
But in the Cup that features 763 clubs, several local sides will be kicking off the hopeful campaign to Wembley.
Garforth Town, who have added four new players, travel to Chester-Le-Street.
Jordan Hendrie, the son of former Bradford City legend John, is set to make his debut for Harrogate Railway as they host Albion Sports, while Liversedge welcome Guisborough Town.
Nostell Miners Welfare and Pickering Town travel to Maine Road and Sunderland Ryhope respectively, as Pontefract Colleries entertain Runcorn Town.
Division One champions Hemsworth Miners Welfare are without last season’s captain Jason Yates in their home tie against Runcorn Linnets after he left the club.
On Sunday, AFC Emley welcome Athersley Recreation to the Fantastic Media Welfare Ground in a 3pm kick-off.