Bolton Wanderers return to the field tomorrow, and they do so at non-league side Atherton Collieries, at Alder House. They’re a team that have been going no where but upwards lately, last year was their debut season in the NWCFL Premier Division and they managed to finish 3rd, while also winning the League Cup and making two other finals along the way.
A year on from last year’s chat, I once again spoke to Colls manager Michael Clegg, about Colls, Bolton and non-league football:
1) So is Kevin Davies actually playing then? If so how has that come about? Any chance of him signing on for the season?
Kevin is training with us to keep fit, any footballer of his standard and ability is used to doing a good pre-season and I think he genuinely misses football, so he is enjoying keeping fit.
Me and Kev have known each other since he first came to Bolton. Obviously my best pal is Nicky Hunt, and there’s the connection. We havnt spoken about him signing, that’s obviously in our wildest dreams, but I amm going to ask him to play in the FA Cup for us this year.
2) What other team news is there for the game?
We are like anyother team this time of year, we have a few trialist in. But this game is a reward to all last years lads who worked so hard. So we have 20 lads available, all fresh and fit.
3) Which players should people keep an eye out for? Any new signing perhaps?
We have just signed Danny Lafferty from Radcliffe. He’s big, strong and quick. He'd header a brick wall if you threw it at him!
Then without being too clichéd there’s loads of talent in our squad. Going forward we are a very exciting team. We play with pace. But in realistic terms, i think a couple of the young lads could really make the step up. The older end could too, but Football League clubs would probably say there too old to be given a chance now.
Jordan Cover’s electric pace is a major asset for us. Brad Cooke and Mark Ayres are always 100% committed to the cause and real assets to the team, too. Keep an eye out for them three.
4) What are your feelings on the last season for Colls?
Last season we did surpass our targets, to finish 3rd in our debut season and win the League Cup is obviously a good year. But as a squad, we thought we under acheived. We were really dosapointed we didnt win the league..
5) What do you want to achieve this year and how do you see the season going?
We want to win every football match we play. Thats the aim. At this level of football, if you can mix enjoyment, dedication and talent, you can go far. We have that. So our targets are high, we want to better ourselves from last year and win the league.
6) This is the second time Colls have played Bolton in a pre-season friendly, is it bigger this time? How will it benefit Colls and local, non-league football?
Its massive for us. Financially, this is the base of the year for the club. It helps to pay for loads of things.
I think this time it is bigger. it galvanised the community last year and that’s something we as a club are very proud of. It has also definatley kept the committee members on their toes over summer, that’s for sure.
Then obviously our lads test thereselves against full time footballers. A chance we dont get very often
7) How big of a challenge is playing against the Bolton first team going to be? What are the thoughts on the game within the squad?
The lads wanted to come in to pre-season a touch earlier in order to give thereselves a chance. No-one wants to take a drubbin infront of a big crowd and we’re certainly no different. We dont lose many games at home.
The squad are extremely excited, they know if any of them put in a massive performance, then who knows who is watching.
8) What’s your take on Bolton’s horrid past 12 months? How do you think the Whites will do in League One?
Its been tough for them. They’re a smashing community club with a good history.
I think they have made a tremendous managerial appointment, Phil Parkinson is a manager who has done great over the last few years and looks to get his team playing with great spirit and passion. I really hope they can get back to where they belong.
9) How do you think non-league managers, like yourself and others, would fair if they got an opportunity at a higher level in the football league structure?
It’s a good question that!!
I think the general job wouldnt be too dis-similar: picking teams, explaining your decisions etc.. But training would be easier as you train every day and know your numbers, we still have builders and office workers running onto the training pitch late as their bosses made them stay late! Or they’re stuck in traffic coming home from work!
That’s the problem. I’d love a chance to work with a sports scientist, physcologist, analyst team, that’s what dreams are made of. Like all my players, I’m ambitious too and would love to manage higher one day.
10) On a similar vain of thought, could any Colls players cut it in the football league, but just need the opportunity?
I really do beleive it won’t be long until Ben Hardcastle gets his break. He is a winger who, no matter how someone tries to mark him, constantly runs at players and gives everyone problems.
We’re working with him on his end product at the moment, but he is someone I really beleive in. He doesnt miss a training session and is one of the most loyal, dedictaed lads I have come across at this level.
Then Mark Battersbey is the best player I’ve worked with. His ability is ridiculous. I think if I would have got hold of him seven years ago we could have really made him go places, at 27, now, he has probably missed the boat in terms of bein a pro.
Gaz Peet is the best left back around, and there isnt many of them these days either, so he could easily cut it higher.
To be honest, the whole squad are just a pleasure to work with, when Brad Cooke and Mark Ayres dont play we miss them badly, and that goes with a few others, too.
11) Does the money that’s pumped into clubs like Salford City distort non-league and expectations?
Salford is just a complete one off. They will be in the football league before you blink. I know a lot of the people connected with the club and they all deserve to be in that privileged position.
I think things like that what are going on at Salford improve non-league. They make it more glamourous and obviously they now takes lots of fans to every away game, so clubs benefit financially.
12) Finally, what score is it gonna be?
3-1 colls! Jordan Cover with two and Super Kev Davies with the one!!!
Get down to Alder House, Atherton, Saturday July 2nd to watch Bolton Wanderers take on Atherton Collieries.