AS the start of the new National League North season edges ever closer, Jordan Eyre takes a look at how newly promoted Curzon Ashton will fare this season…
Curzon’s remarkable rise continued last season, as they earned promotion to the Conference North for the first time in the club’s history.
After seeing off local rivals Ashton United in a tight semi-final courtesy of a penalty shootout win, Curzon then ousted Derbyshire outfit Ilkeston to clinch back-to-back promotions.
John Flanagan’s side may have had one of the division’s smallest budgets, but led by influential skipper Sam Walker, the Nash finished fourth in the table, a position which owed much to their superb record against bottom half teams – they lost just twice against sides between 13th and 24th all season.
Curzon also came close to landing silverware in the form of the Premier Cup, but were beaten by Mossley in another penalty shootout at OIdham Athletic’s Boundary Park. However, the defeat ultimately had little impact on an otherwise fantastic season.
Alex Frost (defender from Ramsbottom United): The 28-year-old, a reliable right-back who can also cover at centre-half, became a firm favourite in five seasons at local rivals Ashton United where he made over 200 appearances. Spells at Nantwich Town, Warrington and Ramsbottom ensued before joining Curzon in May.
Gary Burnett (striker from Northwich Victoria): The former Skelmersdale United and Atherton Colleries marksman was a firm favourite at Northwich, plundering over 40 goals across two seasons as he scooped the fan’s player of the year award in 2013/2014.
Dieter Downey (midfielder from Accrington Stanley): The youngster has had spells with Stockport County, Maine Road and Accrington Stanley, and will offer Curzon energy and creativity from the middle of the park.
Tom Buckley (midfielder from Colwyn Bay): As well as offering versatility to the Nash – the midfielder is capable of filling in at right-back – Buckley brings valuable non-league experience after spells at Salford City and Stalybridge Celtic, scoring eight goals in 64 appearances for the latter after returning from injury.
Danny Taylor (defender from Colwyn Bay): The 23-year-old joins up with Buckley at Curzon, where Taylor will hope there is a chance to stabilise his career. Two separate spells with the Seagulls sandwiched a spell at Chester, while the 5ft 10in right-back can also count Shrewsbury Town and Airbus UK among his former clubs.
John Bennett (midfielder from Mossley): A consistent performer who can also play at left-back., Curzon fans will be familiar with Bennett already – the former Vauxhall Motors man scored just eight seconds into the Premier Cup final between the two clubs in April.
Ben Atkinson (midfielder from Huddersfield Town): Former Terriers midfielder Atkinson arrives at the Tameside Stadium after his contract expired with the Championship side. The youngster can chip in with the odd goal, and has already opened his account for Curzon in pre-season.
Liam Tomsett (midfielder from AFC Fylde): Having began his career with League One side Blackpool, Tomsett joins the Nash from National League North outfit AFC Fylde. The former Tangerines man has also had spells on loan at Altrincham, Hyde and Scottish League One side Ayr United.
Sam Walker (to Halifax Town, free transfer): Curzon’s skipper links up with the Vanarama Conference side after four years at the Tameside Stadium, notching 41 goals in just over 200 games for the club.
Darren Thornton (to Nantwich Town, free transfer): 27-year-old Thornton will remain in the Evo-Stik Premier Division with Nantwich, with the left-back playing a key role in the side that got Curzon promoted last season.
Thomas Souvemanien – released
Luke Horrocks – released
Matthew Warbuton – The striker joined Curzon from North West Counties side Maine Road at the beginning of last season, and soon showed that he could score goals at a higher level with a hat-trick in his third game.
Warburton eventually finished the season with 31 goals from 51 appearances, but there is more than just goals to his game; his clever play creates numerous chances for those around him and will be key for the Nash in their maiden season at National League North level.
Johnathan Hunt – Preparing to embark on his fourth season at the club, Hunt has proved to be a fantastic signing, having joined from Salford City in 2012. The 26-year-old has shown consistency in both performances and appearances and has rarely missed a game, having notched up over 120 appearances in three seasons.
The towering defender has quickly become a fan’s favourite and has previously won both the supporters and players’ player of the year awards.
Alex Brown – The former Hyde midfielder has been named captain in light of Sam Walker’s departure this summer, and Brown possesses the necessary credentials to lead the club this season. A summer capture from the Tigers last year, Brown enjoyed a stellar first season with the Nash.
Combative when off the ball and excellent on it, Brown is a player whose experience at a higher level will prove vital this season.
Possible line up:
Curzon performed admirably last season, and their rise up the non-league ladder has reached an historic first. Now, confronted by better sides in a tougher league, they are expected to struggle but there is enough evidence to suggest that they will be more than simply making up the numbers in the National League North.
Manager John Flanagan has worked well within the club’s means, yet has still brought in enough bodies to add both quality and depth to the club. The addition of Gary Burnett in particular is an encouraging one, and he and Matthew Warburton are capable of firing Curzon past teams.
However, goalkeeper Cameron Mason is still only 19 years of age and, while experience does not guarantee success, an older head behind the defence would offer more security. The loss of captain Sam Walker may hit the club hard, but only time will tell just to what extent.
Overall, Curzon’s bold brand of football should stand them in good stead. One of the more hard-working sides in the division, should Niall Cummins, Warburton and Burnett catch fire the Nash could see themselves surviving the drop.
By Jordan Eyre
* All signings and players out correct as of August 5 *