Michael Clegg hopes his upwardly mobile Atherton Colls can find an extra few quid in their transfer budget this summer.

After gaining promotion from Evo-Stik North to the Premier for the first time in the club’s history, the ambitious boss already fancies his chances against non-league big guns like FC United and South Shields.

Clegg has helped guide Colls out of obscurity in the last five years, watching crowds at the Skuna Stadium swell in the process.

But despite a squad of talented young players signing on again for next season he is aware that there will be a financial challenge for the club to meet.

“The budget we had last season was low in comparison to the rest of the division but next year we’re a mile off,” he told The Bolton News.

“I’m really pleased that lads have stayed with us. The likes of Ben Hardcastle could have gone to Chester, Chorley or Altrincham but he has stayed with us – and not for a lot of money at this level of football.

“We get some great support from the local community but we’ll need more if we are going to push on.

"That might mean sponsors, that might mean people who want to come on to the committee and offer something different. We have come such a long way as a club and I’m really excited about what we can do next year.

“We played four games against teams from the higher division last season and won them all.

“I look at my team on paper and think ‘we don’t have anything to fear’ but that isn’t to say we won’t need extra depth in the squad, or a bit more quality in certain areas.”

Clegg hopes problems clear quickly at Bolton Wanderers to enable their annual friendly to go ahead at the start of July, although currently he has been given no cast iron guarantees.

The rest of the pre-season campaign has been plotted with trips to Prestwich Heys (July 6), Hemsworth Miners (July 10), Ashton Athletic (July 25) West Didsbury and Chorlton (July 30) and Trafford (August 6) and home games against Chorley (July 9), Altrincham (July 16), Pontefract Colls (August 3) and City of Liverpool FC (August 10).

Recruitment has thus far been geared towards keeping their squad together – with Clive Smith, Danny Lafferty and last season’s top-scorer Tom Bentham all signing on the dotted line.

“We’ve given a couple of lads some time – we don’t want to rush into anything,” Clegg said.

“Once we’d nailed the team down last season we were consistent and we weren’t conceding many goals. We’d got that winning mentality and I want to take that into next season.”

Colls will also be travelling in style next season thanks to a new 17-seat branded mini-bus donated by Clean Reach North West – all part of an improving set-up off the pitch.

“Our video analysis is excellent,” Clegg said. “Me and the staff had a four-hour meeting in Leigh the other day to discuss all the sessions, how much fitness, how much football, and go through the pre-season schedule. 

“We’re mega professional off the pitch and that side of things really has improved in the years I have been here. 

“But you look at the clubs across the north of England that we’ll be coming up against next season and you realise, it’s a big task.

“Some people say staying in the league would be success but I don’t buy that. I want to win.

"I want to see one of the big guns like FC United at ours early in the season and we’ll fill the place. I really think there’s an appetite there.

“The attitude of the lads has been first class as well. Some of them have gone away and got themselves personal trainers knowing they need to get back leaner, meaner and hungrier.”

If you can help Colls with sponsorships or would like to know more about commercial opportunities at the club contact Jo on commercial@athertoncollieries.co.uk .