Brighouse Town Women line-up Celtic and Blackburn Rovers friendlies after promotion confirmed
Manager Rob Mitchell will be giving his Brighouse Town Women's team the best possible preparation after their place in the third tier of women's football was confirmed by the FA.
Following the curtailment of the 2020-21 league season for Tiers 3-6 of the Women’s Football Pyramid (WFP), clubs were invited to apply for upward movement, or promotion of up to one level and Town's application to join the FA Women's National League Northern Premier has been given the green light.
That propels Town into a division containing the likes of Huddersfield Town, West Bromwich Albion, Middlesbrough and Derby County and they will also be joined by Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have also secured promotion.
Mitchell, who has been in charge at Brighouse since the team were formed in 2013, admitted that he was delighted, saying: "It is great news and the players are all thrilled. I knew of the decision before the players and it was hard to keep it quiet.
"We have earned it through hard work. Over the past few years we have been consistent and tried to do things the right way; not overspending and looking after the players."
Those initial feelings of delight and excitement have now been replaced by a need to focus on the job in hand and preparing for the new campaign that kicks-off on August 15. He said: "Planning has been intense since we found out.
"We have had to reorganise all our friendlies because our original fixtures were all against teams we will now play next season."
Town's rejigged pre-season programme now begins with a home game against Lincoln City on July 11. Women's Championship side Blackburn Rovers visit Brighouse on July 18 and Mitchell is in the process of organising a potential home clash for July 25, against Celtic FC, who play in the Scottish Women's Premier League, the top division of women's football in Scotland.
A trip to Sunderland, who have been promoted from the Northern Premier to the Championship, follows on August 1 and Town then entertain Manchester United U21s on August 8.
Mitchell is confident that those games should provide good foundations for Town's league campaign but he knows that the next chapter in Town's success story will be a tough one. "We have shown our potential in cup games and matched many of the teams we will be playing but the league is a different matter and is a marathon, not a sprint," he said.
"We will be up against some very good teams and we have to manage our expectations. I want us to get to 20 points as early in the season as we can and secure our place in the division. Then, we can look to build on that."
Mitchell is not making wholesale changes to his squad, instead adding a handful of players. "I have been working on bringing in some new players to add more fight," he said. But he admits: "I will have difficult decisions to make in terms of players' selection."
However, the prospect of next season is one that is to be savoured by the club and town. Mitchell said: "There are some big games to look forward to and I can't wait to get out onto the pitch."