Lancaster City boss confident title winners can make step up

Ricky Mercer in action during Lancaster Citys win over Glossop North End that sealed the Evo-Stik First Division North title.
Ricky Mercer in action during Lancaster Citys win over Glossop North End that sealed the Evo-Stik First Division North title.

Lancaster City boss Phil Brown says there’s nothing sentimental about signing up seven of his title-winning squad.

Captain Ricky Mercer, fellow defenders Josh Westwood and Ben Hudson, strikers Tom Kilifin and Hannu Tam and midfielders Billy Akrigg and Ryan Winder have all put pen to paper for next season.

The Dolly Blues boss is confident his First Division North champions will make the step up as he continues to get as many as possible tied down for life in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.

“It’s really important last season’s players are rewarded but also from my point of view I know these players can compete at the level above,” said Brown.

“They’re signed on merit because they did really well.”

Despite the departures of goalkeeper Mike Hale, who is unable to commit to the increased travel commitments, and top scorer Jordan Connerton, who has moved to Australia, Brown now has the core of his squad from last season signed up with more expected to agree terms in the days and weeks to come.

“Ricky and Josh Westwood did really well for us last season,” said the Blues boss, who has also added new faces Oliver Wood, Sam Bailey and Scott Harries.

“In the middle part of the season especially they were outstanding and with Ben and others played a big part in us having the best defensive record in the league.

“Getting last season’s defence tied down is really important.

“Ryan, Billy and Killer are local lads which is important but they’ve also been rewarded for last year.

“When he came back Tom did what he needed to do for us and I’m looking forward to him having a proper crack at it this time around.

“Ryan came in a bit earlier and really impressed with some good performances.

“Billy’s Billy. He’s just Mr Dependable.

“He had to bide his time at one point but did really well when he got his chance.”

Elsewhere, the Dolly Blues’ pre-season programme is taking shape.

Brown’s side travel to North West Counties Division One side Nelson on July 18 before hosting Barrow seven days later on July 25.

They then visit Tony Hesketh’s Fulwood Amateurs on July 29 and North West Counties Premier Division champions Atherton Collieries on August 1.

The final friendly before the start of the new season will be against long-time Evo-Stik First Division North rivals Bamber Bridge at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium on August 5.

The schedule is expected to be confirmed in the near future with the Evo-Stik season getting underway on August 12.