CHIPPENHAM Town manager Mark Collier believes remaining competitive in the National League South this season will be the biggest challenge the football club has faced in its entire 146-year history.

After securing their highest ever league finish last term – placing 13th on 55 points – Chippenham will be joined by several ex-National League Premier sides such as Welling United, Maidstone United and Braintree Town in only their third season at this level.

Kicking off their campaign away at another side to have featured at the top table of non-league football, St Albans City, the Bluebirds boss feels his team are in for an extremely difficult nine months and has called on every associated member of Chippenham Town to pull together and help his players achieve something special.

Collier said: For me, the football club faces its biggest challenge in its history, that’s how big a challenge it is.

“I include the trip to Wembley in the FA Vase in that from all those years ago.

“There are huge financial demands from players in this division, there are full-time football clubs in this division.

“I noticed there have been football league players turning down contracts to play in league one and two to drop down into this division recently.

“I’ve spoken to some of the other managers and they think it’s the strongest division for many a year, so that says it all really.

“From my point of view, the challenge is for everyone at the football club, including the supporters, is to embrace it.

“The supporters will have to play an absolutely massive part in what is going to be a very, very tough season, due to the strength and the finances that are currently in this division.”

And while financial pressures within the football club have caused Chippenham Park to fold, manager Collier and assistant Gary Horgan have been able to introduce a handful of fresh faces into the Bluebirds’ squad.

Striker David Pratt has returned for his third spell at the club while versatile Swindon Town defender Luke Haines has joined on a short-term loan deal at Hardenhuish Park.

Collier stated he is happy with his current crop of players, calling them ‘a breath of fresh air’, while reiterating his intentions for Chippenham to remain competitive in a ‘bigger, stronger and tougher’ National League South.

He said: “Our objective is to be ultra-competitive in every single game and see where that takes us.

“If we can remain competitive in every game – that’s the first short-term objective.

“Once we get to Christmas, we always have a look to see where we are and what we might be able to achieve.

“Can we beat last year’s points total, which we managed to do by one point from the year before?

“The league is getting bigger, stronger and tougher, but that’s our long-term target.

“But in the short term, we just want to be competitive in every game we play.

“It’s a fantastic football league to be in, so we’re all just looking forward to getting going now.”