GUISELEY BOSS Mark Bower is confident that the Lions will be a competitive force in the Conference Premier in 2015-16 –while accepting it will represent a huge challenge for his side.
After four previous play-off failures, the Nethermoor outfit are now planning for life in the Conference, which represents a major step-up both on and off the pitch for the club.
Guiseley will retain their semi-professional status, competing against a host of full-time sides with superior financial resources and a much larger fanbase, but Bower believes that his side won’t be there to just make up the numbers and can “raise a few eyebrows” next year.
Bower has spoken with the board and has been assured that his playing budget will be competitive.
Bower, set to announce his retained list shortly, said: “More clubs are full-time than not and certainly it will be difficult.
“This club has also been used to winning more than it loses for the last six or seven years and being in the top five of every league they have been in.
“But we are confident that if we keep the majority of this squad and add some quality to it, we can be really competitive and raise a few eyebrows.
“We are under no illusions. But we will be prepared.
“There are clubs in the Conference who are still part-time who still operate on low incomes who have had success and we feel we will compete with several other teams in the league.
“Personally, I am really forward to it and we will be making every effort to make sure we can do as well as we can.”
Plans for next season have begun in earnest for Guiseley, with Bower now formulating his squad plans.
The Lions chief is confident that the vast majority of last season’s squad will stay put at Nethermoor, although he acknowledges that some players will have to show an increased commitment given the demands of Conference football, which features increased number of teams based in the south.
Bower said: “Plans were in place for each scenario and now we have gone up, it is full steam ahead to make sure we are as prepared as we can be to go into this league, which is going to be really difficult.
“We have had a few meetings and we will be speaking to players.
“It is a big challenge to make sure we have got a team who are capable of being competitive.
“We’d like to keep the majority of the players together, although there will be comings and goings.
“We need a bigger commitment from the players in terms of travelling to more games and the games will be played at a more intense pace and for one of two, it might not suit what is going on in their lives.
“We will speaking to everyone to make sure they can commit and we have targets in mind and we will see how we go.
“We are two weeks behind everyone else in terms of knowing where we would be and we will certainly try and do things as quickly as possible to get the ball rolling.”
Meanwhile, Bower says that Guiseley’s Conference Premier status will hopefully enable them to establish stronger links with their Football League neighbours, with clubs likely to now be more receptive to the concept of sending young players out on loan to Nethermoor next season
Bower added: “Promotion will open up the door to possibly getting younger players in.
“Some clubs wouldn’t want them playing in Conference North, but maybe they will let players play in Conference National as there are many clubs in there who have established in the league for a long time.
“That is certainly an avenue we will look at and anyway that we can improve the squad, we will try and exploit it the best we can.”
Guiseley have already pencilled in two friendlies with fellow White Rose sides with the Lions to host Chris Powell’s Huddersfield Town on Saturday, July 11 (3pm).
Three days later, they will entertain Barnsley on Tuesday, July 14 (7.45pm).
Guiseley travel to Curzon Ashton on Saturday, August 1 (3pm).