Workington Reds must take pride in their standing in Cumbrian football and use it to their advantage, believes new manager Mark Fell.

The Borough Park club, who are starting a new era under Fell, need to make the most of their stature – and also maintain positive connections with the bigger club up the road, Carlisle United.

Relations between Blues and Reds have been strong in recent years and Fell believes he is in a position to make the most of that.

But he also stresses Workington must stand proudly itself to capitalise on loan talent.

On connections with United, Fell said: “I think I'm in a privileged position because I've got some great contacts there, so I obviously know [United academy manager] Steven Rudd really well, and [assistant manager] Gav Skelton.

“I was also actually one of Paul Simpson's youth team staff when he was at Preston.

“That’s football, isn't it? Everybody sort of knows everybody else anyway.

“But those links are already there. There's already a relationship between the clubs, and we want to maintain that and build on that.

“And here at Workington, if there are good younger players in the area, we've got to be the first port of call for them because we are the premier football club in the county, with the exception of Carlisle and obviously Barrow – who are effectively Manchester-based, not Barrow-based.

“So I think we need to make sure that we have that bit of pride and that expectation that we are the premier football club in the area.”

Reds’ position in the pyramid sees them preparing for a second season back in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

They consolidated last season, following 2022/23’s promotion under Danny Grainger, although their form tailed off after Grainger’s announcement that he was set to step down.

News and Star: Fell is getting to work as Danny Grainger's successor at Borough ParkFell is getting to work as Danny Grainger's successor at Borough Park (Image: Paul Armstrong / Workington AFC)

Fell was announced in March as his successor and is now getting to work. How does he see the divisional challenge shaping up for Workington – and what are the aims for 2024/25?

“I think, first and foremost, we want to improve,” Fell said. “If I didn't have the aspiration for us to be at the sharp end of this division…I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we could put a team together for that.

“I've had five seasons at this league and I've never finished below mid-table, and I'm not planning to start that now. So, I think that's the first challenge.

“I think everybody in football will acknowledge that Macclesfield should be promoted by the end of February. But it doesn't always work like that.

“I watched South Shields take five years to get out of this division. I know they had some Covid problems, but they are a sort of similar side in terms of the spending, and that sort of thing.

“So, I think that Macclesfield apart, I think it's very open, very even. I think there will be opportunities for teams to come out of a pack that will all probably be spending similar money.

“If you spend that money the best, then it will come down to who can get the most organised and that bit of luck and get off to a good start.

“But if we were still in with a shout of the play-offs, for example, by March next year, I think that would be a decent platform to then try and progress again.”

While much of Fell’s focus is on putting a squad together ahead of pre-season, plenty of planning is also taking place for the structure of that period, in terms of training and friendlies.

Reds expect to welcome Carlisle to Borough Park for the traditional friendly, while other things may be in store for the west Cumbrian club’s players.

“We’re back on June 20, so it gives us seven weeks,” he said. “We see the players twice a week, so we can't make them fit [for the start of it] – they've got to go in fit. And if they don't, they'll be behind and that'll cost them.

“We're just finalising the games programme now, but certainly we're hoping that Carlisle will come. It's sort of an annual friendly anyway, so we think that the Carlisle game will be confirmed quite early on.

“I'd also like to do something different. I don't know what that looks like, but we're trying a few very tentative inquiries about taking the lads away or doing something a bit different just because it'll be such a new side.

“Obviously it'll depend on availability and that sort of thing, but I would like to do something a bit different and then everything will gear up towards August 10.

“I always think the start of the NPL is so important because you get two weeks in and then you're hit with an FA Cup tie. And all of a sudden that becomes very serious because there's so much money attached to it.

“So we've got to be ready, and our job is to tick all those boxes in pre-season, everything from the fitness element of it, but more importantly the systems, the way we're going to work, because it's different with every manager.

News and Star: Fell wants Workington - including star man Dav Symington - to progress further in NPL Premier next seasonFell wants Workington - including star man Dav Symington - to progress further in NPL Premier next season (Image: Ben Challis)

“We're looking forward to it. There’s so much planning going on and so many discussions. I must charge my phone three or four times a day because it's just non-stop, which is not a bad thing, but I would much prefer to be on the grass at Penrith and training – but we still have to wait six or seven weeks for that.”

Fell is happy with Penrith as the main location for Workington’s training, something emphasised by his predecessor Grainger. He feels it will make the club accessible for signings, as well as offer good facilities for what Reds need.

“I know experienced players much prefer to use grass – we’ve got the rugby club at Penrith for that, and then we’ll move to [the artificial surface at] Newton Rigg as more of a permanent base.

“I do like, where possible, to try and use grass and the 3G element of it, because so many teams are now playing on those pitches.”