ANDY Welsh hopes Bury AFC finally now have the chance to “do something special”.

The new Shakers kick off their North West Counties First Division North season at Ilkley Town on Saturday, the game a sell-out well ahead of time.

It marks the start of what all involved with AFC, formed for Bury fans following the Shakers’ financial problems and expulsion from the EFL, hope will be their first full campaign in existence.

Last season’s inaugural outing had plenty of anticipation but ultimately fell flat as it was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, with all eyes on how AFC will fare, Welsh admits the opening day has been a long time coming.

“We can’t wait to get going,” said the former Sunderland winger.

“We must be the only club that’s played treble the amount of friendlies compared to competitive games.

“We are still a work in progress, we’ve got to remember that, we’ve only had one or two away games and for us we just want to get the season up and running and work out where your team is, how you’re playing.

“We’ve played a lot of teams that are a lot higher up than us, strong, fit and we’re putting in that fitness work week in, week out to hopefully go forward and do something special this year.”

AFC completed their preparations with a 2-0 defeat at near neighbours Ramsbottom United on Saturday.

Welsh was pleased with the workout and felt his side more than held their own against a team two levels above them.

“I thought all game to be honest we played some great football on a tough pitch,” he told the club’s YouTube channel.

“If it hadn’t been for their goalkeeper (Ollie Martin) first half I think we could have had three or four goals, I thought he was outstanding.

“Second half, Adam’s (McWilliam) had two one-on-ones, Liam MacDevitt’s had a one-on-one, so from our part we’ve asked all the questions we just didn’t get that goal today.”

There was some concern when prolific frontman Tom Greaves was forced off but Welsh has been delighted with McWilliam’s contribution in his side’s friendlies.

“He (Greaves) just rolled something in the box as he went through and there’s no point risking anything in a game like this,” Welsh said.

“Greavesie’s as fit as they come, hence why we gave him a breather the other night, his minutes are through the roof for pre-season and his work rate as well.

“Adam McWilliam has been superb the last two games, and I was gutted for him today because he deserved a goal.

“We’ll take that if he comes up trumps for us next week.”

After Saturday’s opener at Ilkley, AFC are then in action at Atherton LR on Tuesday night.