BOLTON Ladies manager Chris Knights says the club is going through a period of transition – but on the eve of a new season he is setting the bar pretty high nevertheless.

Having broken away from Bolton Wanderers in the summer, the Ladies kick off their National League North Division One campaign on Sunday away to Barnsley at Houghton Main FC.

It comes after a decision was taken to postpone their opener against Stockport last weekend due to coronavirus restrictions in Greater Manchester.

“We are probably looking at a top six finish – so top half,” Knights said.

“What we are looking at is trying to build a good foundation to compete in the Women’s National League and recruit more players to strengthen because the league’s getting harder every year.

“We’re in the fourth tier now, which is the equivalent of League Two in the men’s game, where Bolton Wanderers are now.

“You get to a certain level in football and money takes over and that’s the point we are getting to now. We are competing with Newcastle and Leeds, who are in a very different position than ourselves.

“But we are really positive.”

This will be Knights’ fourth season in charge, but the club’s first since leaving the Wanderers fold, a decision that was taken to establish themselves on a more stable financial footing.

Knights would rather not dwell on that though, preferring instead to look forward to what he feels can be a pivotal season for the club, in a new setting after moving on from having Atherton Collieries as their home base.

“We’ve gone to Atherton LR, which is just down the road from where we were,” he explained. “Collieries are in a really hard league now and as they push forward they’ve got to try to get as much as they can financially from their assets and it didn’t suit both parties in a financial sense.

“We’re excited for the new season and there’s a lot of people behind us, local businesses and local people. There’s a lot of interest and people want us to do well.

“We’ve got a lot of new players. We’ve probably signed 10 in total so that’s almost a full team but we’ve got six or seven who have been with us for a long time. The core players are there.

“And the girls are looking really sharp in training. With all the new signings it’s taken a lot of time to gel but we’ve played a lot of games in pre-season and tinkered with things a lot. There’s a certain way we want to play and they have an understanding of that now, and we’re excited for the first game.”

Their opponents, Barnsley, have similarly had a big turnover of players, and Knights says both teams will be in the same boat when it comes to preparing for the game.

“Barnsley were brilliant last year but have had a lot of changes themselves so it’s an unknown team we are playing, as we are to them,” said Knights.

“The women’s game at our level is changing so quickly, and players are changing all the time with it. That’s not just us, that’s quite common as the level gets higher.”