Brandon manager Kenny Lindoe admits that the title holders will have to do even better if they are to win the Albany Northern League title again this season.

Brandon, one of the so-called outsiders at the start of last season, pulled off a magnificent feat to win the league for the first time ever, but Lindoe knows that life won't be easy this time round.

"Other teams are going to be trying that little bit harder to beat us. We are there to be shot at," he said.

Lindoe is still finalising his squad and has used several triallists, but he will be relying on the same squad as last season, plus Steve Huggins, who has now recovered from a bad ankle injury.

Bedlington, whose quest for a record breaking run of six title wins was ruined by Brandon last season, have introduced plenty of new blood.

They have signed nine new players. Andy Bowes (Prudhoe), Keith Douglas (Gateshead), James Lang (Alnwick), Anthony Lee (Billingham Town), Danny Anderson and Ian Dixon (both Whitley Bay), Colin McKenzie (Hartlepool), Paul Dunn (Newcastle Reserves) and Chris Rue (local football).

Six players have left the club including highly rated Christian Graham to Blyth, but they will still have one of the strongest forward lines in the league with John Milner and Roy Allen.

Shildon, who finished sixth and won the League Cup last season, have signed centre half Graham Liddle from Tow Law, and midfielders Adam Reid from Evenwood and James Chapman from Billingham Town. They are hoping to strengthen their squad in time for the big kick off, which for them is tomorrow at Brandon in the Cleator Cup.

Billingham Synthonia, who faded after a good start last season, have re-signed their former striker Andrew Fletcher after spells at Dunston and Bedlington, as well as former Billingham Town midfielder Craig Perry from Blyth. Full back Ian Williams has returned to the club after a spell at Harrogate Town, while they have also signed young striker Chris Garbutt, released by Middlesbrough.

Defenders Dave O'Gorman and Richie Watson have both retired, while Dean McGee has gone to Marske United.

Durham City have signed virtually a new team during the close season. They have signed four players from Blyth - keeper Paul Gilmore, defenders John Hutton and Justin Keegan, and midfielder Steve Stewart - midfielder Jason Ainsley and striker Andrew Shaw from Spennymoor, defenders Jamie Howe from Esh Winning and Ray Stanger from West Auckland and Robbie Herbert from Halifax. However, they also need a new physio. Midfielder Paul Brown has been released, while striker Tom Jones has gone to Marske United.

Billingham Town, who had their best ever season last year to finish third, have added just one new face to their squad, midfielder Stephen Bell from Spennymoor, while midfielder David Gallagher has gone to Thornaby and defender Anthony Lee to Bedlington.

West Auckland's new manager, Peter Mulcaster, has brought in midfielders Andy Howarth from Northallerton and Brian Fairhurst from Peterlee, as well as youngster Michael Hillary from Bishop Auckland.

Phil Brumwell and Michael Carter have left for Whitley Bay, Mark Foster has gone back to Bishops, while James Lang has gone to Bedlington.

Another new boss, Tow Law's Steve Smith, has brought in defenders Andy Armstrong and Marcelle Lundy from his old club Prudhoe, and full back Lee Collings from Shildon. He has also enlisted a young striker, Danny Craggs, from junior football. David Hunter, Ian Matthews and Gavin Naylor have all been transfer listed at their own request.

Guisborough have been busy in the transfer market. Striker Darren Sankey has arrived from Dunston, as has midfielder Greg Booth and defender Mark James from Marske.

However, defender Micky Waller has moved out of the area, while Darren Mowbray is unavailable for most of the season because of work. Michael Jameson has gone to Whitby, and Mark Sunley to Gateshead.

Dunston, who finished in eighth place, have signed striker Paul Hollier from Jarrow Roofing, defender Michael Robson from Spennymoor, and midfielder Scott Wilson from Consett. Striker Darren Sankey is expected to sign for Guisborough.

Esh Winning will have virtually the same squad as last season, although they have brought in John Turnbull from South Shields and youngster Paul Bellamy from local football. Full back Jamie Howe has gone to Durham City.

Jarrow Roofing have a potentially exciting forward line. Paul Chow, last season's leading scorer in Division One, has been joined by Adam Johnston, who was top Second Division scorer with Washington Nissan last season. Gavin Cogden, another ex-Nissan striker, has also joined the club. They have also signed midfielder Dean Goodwin from Eppleton.

Chester-le-Street will rely on virtually the same squad as last season, plus midfielder Kevin McGarrigle, who has played for Brighton, Tow Law and Spennymoor, and midfielder Bobby Cooper from Birtley Town.

Whitley Bay, who had a disappointing season after winning the Vase in 2002, have brought in Carl and Graham Pepper from Blyth, as well as former Darlington midfielder Phil Brumwell and striker Michael Carter, both from West Auckland, striker Wayne Edgcumbe from Prudhoe and striker David McMahon from Blyth

Peterlee, who performed a great escape from relegation last season, have lost two of their best players, David McTiernan and Mark O'Byrne to Whitby, but they have signed midfielder Dave Watson from Norton, Rory Barker from Esh Winning and David Atkinson from Wolviston

Marske United are another club who have been busy in the summer. Seven players have left the club or retired, including experienced pair Neil Hodgson and John Woods, but they have brought in Tom Jones and Martin Thompson from Durham, Dave Lawson from Thornaby, Dean Magee from Billingham Synthonia, and Guisborough pair Jonathan Stott and Chris Keegan.

Horden, who won the Durham Challenge Cup as well as promotion last season, have signed defender Andrew Shingleton from Durham City and striker Andy Allen from Tow Law, but they will be missing striker John Outhwaite for two months at the start of the season because of an ankle injury

The Northern League season kicks off tomorrow with the Cleator Cup curtain raiser between league champions Brandon and league cup winners Shildon. Brandon will be without unavailable full back Rob Bowman, while Shildon will be close to full strength.

Durham City are looking for a new physio. Anyone interested should contact the club on 0191 3869616.

The second division game between Consett and Hebburn which was scheduled for Saturday 23rd August, has been brought forward to Wednesday 20th August.