matterIT may have been Stalybridge Celtic’s dreadful start to the season that finally convinced Liam Watson it was time to retire, but in truth the decision was made over the summer.
After 16 years and more than 900 games as a manager, the 46-year-old has had enough. Rather than continue making 100-mile round trips from his home to Bower Fold, he wants to watch his son, Niall, play in the Accrington Stanley youth team.
Watson informed Celtic chairman Rob Gorski on Wednesday and expected to step down immediately. However, he was persuaded to stay in charge for one more match after which the news would be announced to the supporters. Stalybridge ended up losing 3-1 to Gloucester — their fifth straight defeat out of six games.
“I contemplated retirement massively during the summer but I decided I would give it one more go,” said Watson.
“The crux of the matter was my son’s scholarship at Accrington, where’s he’s moved up from the schoolboy side, which plays on Sundays, to the youth side which plays on Saturdays.
“Last week, when I was with the Stalybridge team at Kidderminster, Niall was playing his first match. I should have been there to watch him but wasn’t.
“Although we lost our game, we put in a great display considering we had so many knocks. Later I texted the chairman saying we needed to bring in some players on loan and when I didn’t get an immediate answer the whole thing with Niall started to play on my mind.
“Also, at Stalybridge our ambition is just to stay up. At my other clubs that wasn’t the case. I’ve always been about winning things.
“The more I thought about the matter, the more I realised I wanted to be watching my lad instead of managing. My decision was made.
“I’m not saying I’ll never be involved in football in some capacity, but I can’t imagine ever seeing myself in a dug-out again. If I take on a new role it’ll be one where I get into the ground at five to three and leave at the final whistle.”
Tony Sullivan, Earl Davies and Dave Sullivan are sharing control of the first team for the Bank Holiday Monday game at Chorley. The Bower Fold directors have yet to decide on a plan of action but an announcement is expected in the next few days. Applications are already coming in even though the vacant manager's post has not yet been advertised.
Statement from club chairman Rob Gorski
YESTERDAY morning I received a call from Liam to tell me that, after considerable thought, he had decided to resign as Manager of Stalybridge Celtic. Liam has a couple of personal issues that must take priority and he feels that he cannot give the role the time and focus that it needs. He is happy to go on record confirming that “you will never see me in the dug out again, I am retiring from management”.
If Liam were resigning to take another job, then I would have rejected it, but family comes first and it was with the greatest of regret that I accepted the situation.
After today’s defeat to Gloucester, there will be some who maybe won’t shed too many tears. I would personally remind everyone that firstly Liam has a unique record in delivering 4 non-league titles but more pertinently for us, his man-management skills were there for all to see as he took a team who had won 1 point in 24, to play-off form and we survived absolute certain relegation on the last day of the season. For that alone Liam will forever have my gratitude. In his short time with the club, he also took us to the first round proper of the FA Cup, a feat we hadn’t achieved for over a decade.
I will make a further statement in the coming days, but I felt that it was important for the fans to know via official channels before the players, who found out after today's game, started to post on social media.
On behalf of the whole club, I wish Liam the very best of luck in his career and I'm sure that he will still assist the club in any way that he can. Take care buddy.
ASHTON UNITED enter uncharted waters tomorrow (Saturday) when they visit Ilkeston hoping to extend their unbeaten start in the Evo-stik premier division.
The match will be the Derbyshire outfit’s first of the season as they were suspended by the Northern Premier League for failing to pay footballing creditors. The ban was lifted yesterday morning, when Ilkeston were able to show that all relevant debts had been settled.
However, the matter is not over yet. On Wednesday Ilkeston are back in front of the NPL, this time to answer charges of failing to fulfil their fixtures while the suspension was in force.
Ashton head to the New Manor Ground without defender Will Haining, who has a calf injury. Adam Mather (dead leg) is rated 50/50 but otherwise the squad is fully fit.
Grant Shenton has had the plaster removed from his broken wrist but he will not be able to return for another month, which means co-manager Paul Phillips continues as goalkeeper.
Ilkeston last played three weeks ago when they faced Belper. Even so, team captain Matt Baker does not believe the lack of games will be a major problem.
“We’re all fit and ready and we’re all young lads so it shouldn’t be an issue. There’s no excuses. If we don’t perform, it will be our fault, not down to a lack of training or anything like that,” he told the Ilkeston Advertiser.
“It’s been frustrating but we’ve been assured all the time that the club is in a good position and there’s nothing to worry about. Everyone’s positive and there’s no negativity. We’re all just looking forward to playing.”
In Vanarama North, STALYBRIDGE CELTIC will be attempting to climb out of the bottom three when they take on Gloucester City at Bower Fold.
Manager Liam Watson will be without defender John Shaw (ill) and midfielders Callum Bagshaw (ankle) and Danny Pilkington (thigh) but is hopeful of welcoming back skipper Matty Hughes and Liam Hynes to the starting line-up.
Midfielder Kristian Platt (ankle) faces a late fitness test but striker Kurt Sherlock has shaken off a training ground knock and could be a surprise inclusion as the Bridge look to snap a run of four consecutive defeats.
Defender Connor Hampson misses CURZON ASHTON’S short trip to Altrincham, sidelined by a shoulder strain. However, two defenders return to the squad: Matt Flynn, and Danny Shaw who has undergone long-term knee rehab.
Andy Keogh and Tom Pratt are back for MOSSLEY’S home clash with Tadcaster Albion in the Evo-stik NPL first division north. Oldham Athletic winger Jordan Bove, who had been considering a move to Scottish football, is now properly signed-on and available.
Midfielder Matt Dempsey is the only absentee for HYDE UNITED ahead of their game against Goole at Ewen Fields. Brice Wassi has shaken off the knock he sustained in the warm-up before last weekend’s FA Cup tie against Cammell Laird.
DROYLSDEN manager Dave Pace has plenty of selection problems for the Colne’s visit to the Butchers Arms. Luke Daly, Shaq Clarke and Russ Courtney are injured. Steve Lewis, Liam Caddick, Aaron Walters and Mike Roddy are doubtful.
It’s an entirely different matter for GLOSSOP NORTH END boss Chris Willcock who has a full squad to choose from for the visit to Lancaster City.
Bank Holiday Monday Fixtures
Chorley v Stalybridge Celtic, Curzon Ashton v Salford City.
Evo-stik NPL Premier Division
Ashton United v Skelmersdale United
Evo-stik NPL First Division North
Droylsden v Mossley
Glossop North End v Hyde United.
GOALKEEPER Hakan Burton is doubtful for CURZON ASHTON’S Vanarama North clash with Telford United at the Tameside Stadium tomorrow (Saturday) following a cycling accident which forced him to miss Monday’s 2-1 defeat by Darlington.
Defender Connor Hampson is rated as 50/50 because of a shoulder injury. Northern Ireland winger John Gorman is the same, but in his case because of a hamstring strain.
Striker Max Hazeldine, who has joined the Nash on a three-month loan from League Two Accrington Stanley, could make his first start having come off the bench in midweek.
Defender Danny Shaw is back in full training and should be available for selection within the next two weeks.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC are facing an early-season injury crisis ahead of their trip to Kidderminster Harriers.
Manager Liam Watson will be without defenders Matty Hughes (hamstring) and John Shaw (ill), as well as midfielders
Callum Bagshaw (ankle) and Kristian Platt (Achilles).
Jimmy Ball is doubtful with the groin injury that forced him out of Tuesday’s defeat at Telford.
However, loan signing Graham Kelly impressed in that game and the Sheffield United youngster is a definite starter.
New signing Paul Foy has also been drafted into the squad after missing the start of the season through suspension.
Celtic will be looking to snap a run of three consecutive defeats but they have failed to win at Aggborough in ten previous visits.
Unbeaten ASHTON UNITED get an early test of their promotion credentials when they face the Evo-stik NPL premier division leaders at Hurst Cross. Hednesford Town have won both opening fixtures.
The Robins go into the game with Will Haining, Tunji Moses and Grant Shenton all injured. Midfielder Matt Chadwick is unavailable.
All the remaining Tameside and Glossop clubs are taking part in the preliminary round of the FA Cup where each winning side will pick up £1,925.
James Burke faces a pre-match fitness test for HYDE UNITED, who are competing at this level for the first time since 2003. The defender went over on an ankle in training. Striker Curtly Martin-Wyatt, who was unable to play at Colwyn Bay in midweek because of shin problems, may miss out again. The same condition could rule out Nathan Woodward.
Midfielder Damase Kiwanda comes into the reckoning for MOSSLEY — who are home to Hemsworth — having signed from Curzon Ashton.
Striker Jordan Bove, who has been linked with a move into Scottish football, is also ready to step in, as is former Stalybridge forward Nathan Quinlan.
Tom Dean and Tom Pratt remain suspended, and Desi Flanagan and Tom Murray have left Seel Park. Summer signing Steve Yarwood needs a hernia operation.
GLOSSOP NORTH END, at home to Brighouse, have a full squad. It’s understood DROYLSDEN (home to Radcliffe) could have a couple of players out but assistant-boss Aeon Lattie refused to name names.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC will be looking to put Tuesday’s disappointing home reverse to Stockport behind them when they welcome Vanarama National League North new boys Salford City to Bower Fold tomorrow (Saturday).
They will have to take on the Ammies without defender Aaron Chalmers. He was suspended in any case after his opening-day red card at Boston, but is likely to miss several more games after suffering concussion in a sickening collision with County’s Courtney Meppen-Walker. Youngster Peter Wylie is expected to deputise in his absence.
Bridge have loaned out defender Aaron Walters to Droylsden and winger Danny Burns to Skelmersdale United.
John Flanagan has four men out ahead of CURZON ASHTON’S visit to Alfreton Town. Simon Woodford, Danny Shaw and Connor Hughes are long-term injuries. Matt Flynn is at a wedding.
Striker Niall Cummins left the field with a suspected broken wrist in last week’s opener against Kidderminster Harriers but was able to play in the 4-4 midweek draw at Bradford Park Avenue.
In the Evo-stik NPL premier division, ASHTON UNITED’s only absentees for the game at Frickley Athletic are midfielders Matt Chadwick and Tunji Moses, and keeper Grant Shenton who sustained a broken hand in pre-season.
DROYLSDEN, who are away to Lancaster City in the first division north, have several players unavailable. Steve Lewis, Phil Clarke, Rob Jones and Carlos Rouse are all suspended. Ed Toner, Russ Courtney and Dan Grimshaw are doubtful.
“It’s not the best preparation for the first game of the season but we’re confident in the squad,” assistant-boss Aeon Lattie commented.
There are two suspensions for MOSSLEY who face Kendal Town at Seel Park: Tom Dean and Tom Pratt. HYDE UNITED are at full strength for their home clash with promoted Tadcaster Albion — the first competitive game on the new MX Trimension 50 3G surface at Ewen Fields.
Chris Willcock was tight-lipped about the GLOSSOP NORTH END squad travelling to play NWCL champions Colne. Fans can expected a few new faces and a few surprises.
IT’S been three years of success since Chris Willcock took over as Glossop North End manager. The Hillmen have been to an FA Vase final, won the NWCL championship and then reached the play-offs in their first Evo-stik season.
Can a fourth year follow? It’s certainly what Willcock’s working towards. But considering the amount of money being spent in the NPL first division north this season he’s knows it will be harder than ever to achieve.
“It’ll be more difficult for us to reach the play-offs than it was last year because so many clubs are striving for the same goal — promotion,” said the Surrey Street manager.
“There’s a lot of money floating about which is quite alarming but that’s the nature of where we are. Clubs have come up, others have been relegated, but they all see it as a great opportunity to get up to the next level.
“I don’t think we’re in the bracket of winning the division but I’d like to put us in the right half and up near the play-off places.”
Willcock believes as many as ten clubs have increased their spending so that they can get into the premier division in 2017-18. He sees Colwyn Bay, Lancaster and Colne leading the way, with Tadcaster, Farsley Celtic, Bamber Bridge, Brighouse and even Hyde United following.
He predicts the new campaign will be an intriguing one and very competitive.
As is his way, Willcock has kept his signings close to his chest. He has revealed a few — to give the supporters something to chew on as he puts it — but the fans who travel to Colne on Saturday can expect a few surprises in the starting line-up. He says he has several up his sleeve.
In many ways it will be almost entirely new North End side as many players have retired or moved on. Established men such as the Lugsden brothers, Eddie Moran, Tom Bailey and Matt Russell have all left Surrey Street.
Their replacements, or at least the ones whose names have been revealed so far, include Northwich Victoria left-back Louis Barnes, striker Karl Jones from US club Derby City Rovers, former Hyde midfielder Matty Burke, Northwich Vics right-back Mohamud Ali, Kidsgrove Athletic keeper Ben Chapman and former Curzon Ashton hotshot Mickey Norton.
“As a whole the squad had been together for three years,” Willcock commented. “I suppose it was inevitable that at some point there would be a little shake-up. The players have moved on for various reasons.
“It’s been a wonderful three years but the time came to say goodbye. I thanked them for their efforts and started to reshape the squad.
“Like all pre-season managers I’m hoping to have a successful year. However, supporters need to be mindful that we now have a relatively new group of players and a lot depends on how quickly they gel.
“One thing I can guarantee is that we have spirit and togetherness at Glossop North End and that makes up for pots of money.”