THIS season could represent “a once-in-a-lifetime chance” for Rylands.

The North West Counties League Premier Division is a notoriously difficult league to gain promotion from, with only the title winners moving up a level every season.

However, this season there will be three automatic promotion places up for grabs.

Henceforth, there is a chance for Blues to have passed through the North West Counties League within two seasons of being accepted into it.

Co-manager Dave McNabb is realistic about their chances but having won the First Division South title at a canter, Saturday’s opening game against Charnock Richard could be the start of something special.

“I think it’s an opportunity but I wouldn’t say we are favourites by any stretch. It is a big step up,” he said.

“There’s no room for complacency but if we get a good start, we could potentially push for one of those three promotion spots.

“I’m pretty sure that there will be seven or eight teams who will have aspirations for promotion and will put a lot more money and resource behind it.

“I think Bootle are strong, as are Northwich Victoria, 1874 Northwich and Congleton.

“You’ve also got Longridge Town, who are a very good footballing side, and Avro have strong ambitions for promotion as well.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get yourself into the Northern Premier League because only one team has been promoted in previous seasons.”

Things are moving quickly for Blues after being taken over by former player and renowned sports agent Paul Stretford, whose clients include former England captain Wayne Rooney and current Three Lions star Harry Maguire.

After being moved up from the Cheshire League via an application process, a revamped squad took to life in the NWCFL like a duck to water.

Twenty-eight victories and 111 goals later, they were First Division South champions by a margin of seven points.

“There was always a hope that we would be challenging,” McNabb said in reflection.

“I think a lot of it depended on how we started because things take time to gel.

“We were confident that by around Christmas time, we could put a side together that would challenge.

“We weren’t expecting to win it but we were quietly confident that we could be up there.

“We got off to a really confident start, had a really good run over Christmas and just took that forward.”

Rather than making wholesale changes, McNabb and co-boss Stuart Wellstead have placed their trust in last season’s squad to deliver the goods again – the least they deserve according to the former.

“The players deserve a chance because of their performances last year in getting us promoted,” he said.

“We strongly believe they are good enough to compete at this level, but one of the most important things was the average age of the squad was around 23.

“A lot of them had never played at that level before but now, they’ve all had a year of Counties football.

“They’ve gone through the pressures of winning a league having been top for a long time and that’s now instilled within them.

“The team spirit and camaraderie we’ve got will help win games when our backs are against the wall.”

That said, Blues have brought in a few reinforcements.

“We’ve tried to add a bit more experience from this league and the one above as well, particularly down the spine of the team,” McNabb said.

“We’ve brought in George Lomax from Widnes, who has got bags of experience despite still being in his mid-20s.

“We’ve signed Kevin Pollard, who’s won back-to-back promotions with Widnes, and John Shaw at the back who’s played for Stalybridge in the National League North.

“We’ve really tried to drive up the quality down the spine of the pitch.”

Regardless of how their bid for back-to-back promotions pans out, the 2019-20 campaign will be a historic one at Gorsey Lane.

As well as competing at their highest ever level, Blues will enter the FA Cup and the FA Vase for the first time in their history.

McNabb says the squad are particularly excited about competing in the FA Cup – the world’s oldest and best-known knockout competition.

“It’s a massive step for the club and another first to tick off,” he said.

“It’s a very tough game to start – Runcorn Town will be challenging for the league as well.

“Anyone can beat anyone in the cup and that’s what we’re going to try and hang onto.”