Tough season ahead for region’s football clubs

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Blackpool will be learning how to cope without Charlie Adam this season, but a year in the Championship for last season’s fans’ favourites comes with one aim in mind: promotion straight back to top-flight football.

Ian Holloway has already bolstered his squad with proven talent, signing 30-year-old Matt Hill from Barnsley and former Birmingham captain Barry Ferguson in a move that signals the manager’s intent on plugging the Adam-shaped hole in his midfield.

The arrival of Kevin Phillips is also sure to put a smile on fans’ faces. However, the sale of David Vaughan to Sunderland, and DJ Campbell to QPR is still enough to cause consternation in Tangerine households. An opening day victory against Hull was the perfect season opener, and Holloway’s men will seek to build on this promising start.

Blackburn Rovers
With the multi-million pound injection from Venky’s and a fresh start to the new season, Blackburn will undoubtedly be hoping for a stronger campaign than last season. Erratic form in recent years has not only cost Rovers the European place they should be challenging for, but has also left them languishing in a relegation dogfight.

15th last year was achieved with a solid run of draws towards the end of the season, but Steve Kean will be looking for a lot more from his players this time around. Bolstered by the arrival of young Argentine Formica and Spaniard Rochina, Blackburn’s new blood may have a lot to offer this season. A disappointing 2-1 defeat to Wolves on the opening day can’t have been the start Steve Kean was looking for though.

Wigan Athletic
Though their recent ventures in the Premiership may begin to hint otherwise, Wigan can still proudly boast of being the only team to have played in England’s top division and never been relegated. Manager Roberto Martinez may be content to simply reproduce this kind of form for his side’s seventh consecutive outing in top-flight football, particularly after the sale of the club’s best player, Charles N’Zogbia.

Formalising Ali Al-Habsi’s move from Bolton is a smart one, and acquiring combative ex-Wolves midfielder David Jones will hopefully go some way towards replacing Tom Cleverly after his return to Manchester United.

Realistically, Wigan will be lucky to extend their unique record for another season. Martinez can’t be too upset with a 1-1 draw with Norwich on the opening day.

Preston North End
Relegation from The Championship was almost a formality for a post-Christmas Preston side that took thirteen attempts to win under new manager Phil Brown. Come this season and life in League One was anticipated in optimistic fashion, with Preston touted as potential favourites to secure a return to The Championship, but a 2-4 defeat at home to Colchester eradicated any complacency found at Deepdale.

The arrival of defenders Brian McLean and Graham Alexander and goalkeeper Iain Turner from Falkirk, Burnley and Everton respectively, should reinforce last season’s leaky back-line, while up front the signing of Juvhel Tsoumou will hopefully prove to be a prosperous one.

Lancaster City
An away trip to Farsley FC kicks off another season in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League for Lancaster City, whose solid eighth place finish last season was a more than commendable achievement.

However, manager Tony Hesketh will be looking to improve on Lancaster’s poor away form this season, as fourteen away defeats during the last campaign put paid to any plans of promotion. If Lancaster are to mount a realistic title challenge this year it’ll be made or broken by their away days.

Former captain Jim Bentley’s first season in charge and Morecambe’s second in their new stadium smells of new beginnings. Bentley will be eager to stamp his identity on a team who enjoyed their greatest success under ex-Manchester United legend Sammy McIlroy, and hopefully replicate the success of his predecessor in guiding Morecambe to the play-offs in his first full season in charge.

A 20th place finish last season was well below the Shrimps’ best, and though they’ll feel aggrieved to have conceded late on to lose their season opener 0-1 to Barnet, one can’t help but feel that Morecambe will be in for another rough ride this year.

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