Keith Briggs is adamant there is no truth to suggestions that the appointment of the former Matlock Town boss as his assistant is the result of badgering from the board, or that it means he will be handing over the reins and taking a back seat.
He insists he is excited by the prospect of working with Atkins and that it can only mean better times ahead for Celtic who are second bottom of Vanarama North. He believes Atkins has all the qualities needed to get the Bridge moving up the table as the season approaches the halfway mark.
Atkins, who replaces the popular Andy Fearn, returns to Bower Fold seven years after the club sacked him when he was John Reed’s number two, and 12 months after he missed out to Briggs on the manager’s job following Jim Harvey’s departure.
“Mark’s got a deep knowledge of the game. He’s played at the highest level – winning a Premier League championship medal with Blackburn in 1995 – and he learned his trade under top managers such as Kenny Dalglish.
“He’s a great guy, a great coach, and has lots of experience. What’s more he has a history with the club. He knows the directors and the people too, which is important. I think he’s going to be very good for Stalybridge Celtic and for me,” said Briggs.
Atkins, who is 46, began his playing career at Scunthorpe before spending seven years at Blackburn. His other clubs include Doncaster, Hull, Shrewsbury and Harrogate. After being Reed’s number-two, he took over as manager at Matlock in 2008 and the club won the Derbyshire Senior Cup two years later. He resigned in October of this year.
Briggs added: “When Andy Fearn said he was going we needed somebody with a bit of experience and Mark fits the bill all round. I think he’s a good fit for us. He has a great knowledge of non-league and the professional game and that can only be a positive thing.
“The players will also benefit from his guidance and having a man of his quality to bounce things off.
“I’m really not bothered that he was here before or that he was interviewed for the manager’s job when I got it last year. All that matters to me is that Stalybridge Celtic start picking up points, winning games and moving up the table.”
Briggs also paid tribute to Andy Fearn, saying: “Andy lives in Lichfield and is very busy with his business. He had to do a lot of travelling and it wasn’t working out. But he was a top man and I’ll miss him a lot.”