Bourne Town joint manager Phil Gadsby expects Division One to be ‘wide open’ this season.
He insists the Wakes can be among the challengers with opening-day visitors Raunds Town.
They meet at Abbey Lawn on Saturday (7.45pm kick-off) in front of a bumper crowd as part of this weekend’s eight-match groundhop.
Gadsby said: “In the past two seasons, everyone had expected Peterborough Sports and Daventry Town to claim promotion.
“This time, it’s harder to call. Everyone will look at this league and fancy themselves to do well.
“When everyone can beat each other, it’s important to have a consistent side with a bit of luck in terms of injuries and players being available.
Raunds are always strong but, hand on heart, you can’t discount ourselves being up there as well. It’s going to be wide open which makes it more exciting.Phil Gadsby
“Raunds are always strong but, hand on heart, you can’t discount ourselves being up there as well. It’s going to be wide open which makes it more exciting.”
Gadsby returned to Bourne this summer to work alongside Jimmy McDonnell.
The former Langtoft United and Blackstones boss said: “I captained the under-18s and played in the first team with Jimmy so I’m familiar with the club.
“When I got sacked midway through last season from my job at Blackstones, Jimmy rang me and tried to get me involved at Bourne.
“But it wasn’t quite the right time for me so I politely declined. We kept in touch then I came to watch a few games.
“Now we are joint managers and it’s working well. Jimmy is a good coach and my role is more about man-management inside the dressing room with the players.
“Sometimes he takes the lead and I’ll sit down or vice versa. We’ve had a good pre-season together.
“We trained for six weeks every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with 30-plus players including the reserves and under-18s.
“We’ve had good sessions and a series of friendlies so it’s shaping up well.”
Admission to Saturday’s game against Raunds is £5 and free to under-16s.
Bourne co-chairman Steve Elger added: “We want to make it a fun occasion, starting from 5pm.
“Junior players aged six to 12 will take part in a penalty shoot-out and they will also be ball boys and girls for the match.
“There will be up to 40 youngsters taking part and we hope their families and other supporters will come along.
“We would also like to see some new faces. We normally get about 70 people to home games and would like to attract more.
“We are a family club where local lads play for the love of the game.
“We develop players through three senior sides and 24 junior teams, including girls and ladies.
“We are a community-based club which welcomes people who want to join in.”