BRIGGSY is back. Barely four months after leaving Stalybridge Celtic he has returned to football management, replacing Roy Soule at New Mills.
As his tenure at Bower Fold ended in disappointment, with Celtic twice involved in relegation battles, he could be excused for looking upon the Church Lane job as an opportunity to prove his detractors wrong. The desire to do so must have had some influence upon his decision but Briggs insists it was by no means his main motivational factor.
“The fact is, I love the game. When you’re away from the changing room you can quickly be forgotten about. After leaving Stalybridge I had the chance to keep playing and Ashton United were great with me, but when you’ve had that taste of management it’s difficult to give it up,” he explained.
“I wanted to get straight back in and give it a go, and the New Mills job came available. I only live 15 minutes away from the ground so it seemed ideal.
Was it a case of Briggs looking for the job or did New Mills approach him? “Bit of both,” he replied. “I knew that Roy Soule has resigned and it was just a matter of bringing us both together. It was a very swift process. I was interviewed on a Tuesday and on Thursday I was appointed.”
Briggs takes over at a club that has suffered a difficult couple of years. Since winning the North West Counties League championship in 2011, and reaching the NPL first division north play-offs in 2013, the Millers have reduced the wage bill. They finished 16th two years ago and only a point above relegation last season.
“There’s no money at the club and I’ve just been told to do my best,” said Briggs. “But management is always a difficult job.
“I’ve got four weeks till the season starts, and I’ve hardly seen the lads, but I believe we could have a decent little outfit here next season. I need to filter through the people we’ve got and then try to bring in a few players who could take us forwards.
“It’s true that I don’t have much experience of the NPL first division but I’ve been talking to friends and contacts, asking which players to look out for, because demands are different at this level.
“Mark Atkins and Andy Fearn have joined me at New Mills and they really do have knowledge of this level. Mark had a long spell as manager of Matlock, so I’m sure between the three of us there’s enough ability to move the club on.
“The directors are setting no targets. We’ve just been told to do our best and they’ll try their hardest to give us what they can to bring in new players to help the young lads out.
“It’s a tough job but I’m back in football and looking forward to the challenge.”
And things couldn’t have got off to a better start. New Mills beat a Rochdale XI 2-1 tonight (Wednesday) at Church Lane.
IT’S so far, so good for Chris Willcock. The Glossop North End boss has already achieved his first target as the Surrey Street club prepares for its first season in the Evo-stik NPL first division north.
Willcock has re-signed virtually all the players who won the North West Counties League double last season, as well as getting to the FA Vase final, and over the next few weeks will turn his attention to strengthening the squad.
“When you’re as successful as we were last year the vultures start to circle,” said the manager.
“After a promotion, you would think all the players would want to stay to have a try at the higher level, but there’s a lot of managers out there with a lot of money at their disposal. They’re going to come calling. That’s the nature of football.
“So my first port of call was to make sure I kept everybody going forward, and I’m glad to say I’m virtually there now.
“As for adding to the squad, I’ll be looking to strengthen in the next month or so. We’ve had a number of faces training with us and I’ll be making decisions shortly. But the priority was to make sure the existing squad were happy and prepared to go up to the next level.”
Because of the intensity of last season, when most of the Glossop squad played more than 60 games, the players are making a gentle return and have only just begun pre-season training.
“I’ve given them additional time off which I think will benefit us. We had a lot of success last season but it was extra long as well. The players needed an extra rest to get over the rigours of last year,” Willcock explained.