“For me, Celtic are the biggest club in Tameside and one of the biggest in the region,” said the former Ashton United boss. “Nobody had to sell the place to me. Going for the job was a no-brainer.
“I’m not promising instant success — things have to be stabilised to begin with — but the aim is to win promotion to Conference National.”
Phillips moves across Tameside with his managerial partner Steve Halford. However, they won’t take full command at Stalybridge until next week. Tomorrow they will be in charge at Hurst Cross one last time for the FA Cup tie with Nantwich Town. Phillips is needed to play in goal as Grant Shenton is still unavailable having broken a wrist in the pre-season friendlies.
Halford, who has also managed at Hyde United and Mossley, was just as keen as his long-time friend to apply for the Stalybridge job. “Steve was totally behind the decision and we’ll be doing things 50/50 as always. We’re joint managers,” said Phillips.
“As soon as we heard that Liam Watson had unfortunately resigned we sent in our CV and asked for references from people like Keith Briggs and Jack Higgins who are well respected at Celtic. Then we rang the chairman, Rob Gorski, and had a long chat.
“The immediate challenge is to move up the table. Stalybridge Celtic have underachieved in recent years but the infrastructure is all there — the ground, the facilities, the people.
“Steve and I want to push on to the division above but first and foremost we’ve got to stabilise things. We’ve got to impose our ideas and our way of doing things.
“One of those is that win, lose or draw we’ll all be going into the social club after a game to mix with the fans. When we get beaten we want them to see we’re hurting and that we’re not just there to pick up our pay packet. We want it to be a friendly place, too, like Ashton United, where men can bring their wives and children.
“There are clubs in our division that have much bigger wage bills but we’re not fazed by that. When Steve and I applied for the Ashton job we said we wanted to go for promotion and some of the directors interviewing us started laughing. But we got to the play-offs in each one of our seasons at Hurst Cross.”
Posting on the Stalybridge Celtic fans’ forum, club chairman Rob Gorski commented: "Steve and Phillo stood out. Their hunger, passion and professionalism meant that the board was unanimous in wanting them to join.”
Dave Noble, a former Curzon Ashton boss, and Phil Sherwood, are also moving over from Hurst Cross. Celtic fans can meet their new managerial duo on Monday night (7.30pm) in the Bower Fold sponsors’ lounge.