LEEK Town boss Lee Casswell, pictured, says he is looking to keep his squad of players together for the 2014-15 campaign, after finishing third in the Evo-Stik League Division One South.
Casswell, looking back on an excellent season in which his club went agonisingly close to a return to the Premier Division, has already outlined his aims for his side's return to league action in August.
He said: "We've got a very talented group of players, and we have been backed by the club superbly. Hopefully, the same can happen over the summer and we can keep our good players here.
"We will have a rest over the next month, but the season soon comes round again, the lads will go off on their holidays and I'm sure there will be one or two offers out there for some of them.
"We aren't expecting them to commit to us at the moment, but ideally we want this group of players to stay together."
However, Blues definitely will be without their flying winger John Johnston, who has joined League One outfit Crewe Alexandra.
Caswell said of Johnston: "It was Andy Kinsey who rang me up last year saying there's a lad at Kidsgrove, you've got to try and sign him, and he was certainly right.
"He has been a fantastic lad to work with. His attitude has been first-class, especially after he became a Crewe player.
"He gets people off their seats and each time he gets the ball, there is a buzz in the crowd – and they are the kind of players you want in your club. It has been a pleasure to have him here, and he will be missed.
"Crewe won't be loaning him out to us next year. They'll either get him involved in their team or perhaps send him out to somewhere higher than our level for a few months.
"Steve Davis (Crewe's manager) was brilliant in allowing us to have him for the rest of this season."
Blues dominated for long periods of Wednesday night's promotion play-off with Belper Town at Harrison Park, but were punished twice late on, as defensive slips allowed Aaron Cole (78 minutes) and leading scorer Jon Froggatt (86) to score the goals which settled the tie.
Casswell added: "I thought we looked likely to win the game. We played well and got the ball out wide and got lots of balls into the box, but it just wasn't to be."
Goalkeeper Ben Chapman was at fault for Belper's first goal, and Casswell said: "I'm gutted for Ben. He's had a great season, but he knows he should have done better with the first goal.
"He's held his hands up, but it's gone now and we've got to move on.
"It will get easier to accept but it is certainly very disappointing at the moment."
Casswell also paid tribute to Kinsey's performance on Wednesday, and is also expecting big things from midfielder Dan Shelley next year.
"I thought Kinsey was superb. I don't know what his plans are next season, but we want him here. His experience is invaluable and he's great to have around the club.
"Dan Shelley's another one we want back here next season. He's not had the best of seasons but two years ago he was in the team of the year and we know what he is capable of."
"With JJ going back to Crewe, we will be looking for him to step up and hopefully have a similar impact for us."
Casswell also revealed that he plans to sit down with chairman Andy Wain this week to map out plans for pre-season and to see which direction the club wants to take.
Meanwhile, Leek Town under-16s have secured the Potteries Junior Youth League Division One title without kicking a ball.
The Blues' final league game was due to be against Betley FC on Friday night, but their opponents conceded the fixture.
The junior Blues, therefore, collected the three points required for the championship without breaking into a sweat.
A team spokesman said: "Having a playing record that reads played 17, won 15, drawn two, lost none, it was surely only a matter of time before the inevitable happened anyway – but to see it confirmed is a great achievement, by all involved."
Due to injuries, the team only had eleven fit players for their league cup semi-final clash against Trentham Park Rangers on Sunday.
However, they still managed to cruise through to the final with a 5-1 victory.
The Blues went one up when Charlie Cooke finished from ten yards.
Leek then lost Luke Lewis to injury and a reshuffle saw them lose shape a little. As a result, Trentham got back on level terms. However, almost from the kick-off Cooke again found space in the Trentham area to restore Blues lead.
The injured Lewis returned to the field in the second half to at least keep 11 on the pitch, as Leek lost midfielder Tyler Simms to work commitments.
As the game wore on, Leek got stronger and stronger and they added a further three goals. t
Zack Stanley chipped in with the third when bursting from midfield, before leading scorer Josh Oultram got his name on the score sheet to make it 4-1.
In the final five minutes, the Blues were awarded a penalty when an Oultram cross was handled by a Trentham defender, and it was left to goalkeeper Josh Thorley to convert from the spot.
Leek now have to overcome Cheadle Town in the final on Sunday, May 18 to complete a proud double.