Ahead of the seasons kick off, we managed to grab a few words with United Manager Paul McNally, in between taking training sessions and dealing with incoming phone calls we managed to sit down and discuss the forthcoming season.
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN DURING THE LOCKDOWN?
Not much really to be honest other than working from home (teaching through zoom) and looking after the kids. It has been a very quiet time and one we have been thankful for as we were playing up until December and still training once a week up until the end of May due to our activity in the St Luke’s cup. Time spent with the family and recharging the batteries is always good because our job is 24/7 and we can become wrapped up in the football world instead of finding the balance needed. Fingers crossed this season we can have a full one for all the fans to enjoy.
HOW DID THE GAMES GO IN THE ST LUKE’S CUP?
It was great to finally get some game time in, I think the organisers, Winsford United, were hoping that supporters would be allowed but it wasn’t to be.
The matches gave us the opportunity to get some game time in for the regular lads, whilst also giving us a chance to look at some of the younger players who have come through the Academy and also give minutes to some lads who didn’t get much game time last season, Josh Niblock, Ged Traynor and Nathan Carnell along with Harry Jones all did their part.
We had good games against all three of our opposition, the two games against Winsford both ended in 3-2 defeats but the games could have gone either way. Danny Mitchley was outstanding at Runcorn scoring all four goals in what was a brilliant team performance. I was really proud of the lads after that one and the last 2-3 games was possibly the only time we got near our strongest squads in the cup.
The only downside being the defeat at home to Sandbach, which was to say the least, very disappointing but a learning curve for many players who played that day and also give them a look at what is needed to play at a North West Counties club.
LOOKING FORWARD TO PRE-SEASON?
We had a few weeks off after the St Luke’s Cup games but we are now back in full swing, training has started 3 times a week since 17th June and we are looking forward to see what this season brings.
We have a good mix of pre-season games coming up, some from lower down the pyramid, which again will give a chance to all of the squad to stake a claim for a place.
These game won’t be taken lightly as the opposition will again see us as a scalp, having been on TV for the FA Cup game the opponents will want to have bragging rights.
Prescot Cables, Marine and Radcliffe will provide a sterner test at the JMO, hopefully with a good crowd backing us we will look to put in some good performances in those games.
I am pleased that we have managed to get Accrington Stanley as our show piece home fixture, we are building strong bonds between the two clubs, Andy Gray who most “Skemmers” will know and is part of the Accy set up has been a regular visitor to the JMO in recent seasons.
Gabriel Ellis and Alex O’Neill was previously on their books, and I am told they have a couple of ex Skem players in their ranks.
I think they will have a mix of Senior and youth players but whatever side they have I’m sure it will be a wonderful occasion.
ANY IN’S OR OUT’S FOR NEXT SEASON?
Obviously, you have seen that young Jack Grimshaw has departed for Macclesfield, Jack comes from Stafford and was looking for a club closer to home. He has been a regular for our side in the two season’s he has been at the club and has scored some important goals, the last-minute winner against Bootle in the FA Cup springs to mind – we wish him very well and hope he is successful but not when he plays against us ha ha!
Youngster Harry Jones has also departed, having only made a few appearances, he has been given a two year professional scholarship with AFC Fylde so well done to him and Danny Murphy has stepped up and joined Prescot Cables.
We wish them all well and good luck in the future.
I am always tight lipped at this stage of the season, as is every other manager, regarding new recruits. Players promise you they will come then let you down. We have had a few new faces at our first couple of training sessions, ones I would very much like to keep but we shall wait and see. We cannot sign anyone until 1st July, so when we do, you will be the first to hear about it. My biggest and best signings will be keeping most of last season’s team together and adding a few quality players to strengthen us for a challenge.
HOW DO YOU SEE THIS SEASONS NORTH WEST COUNTIES?
Of the “New” teams will be looking forward to facing Macclesfield, they are now “the big club in the league” and everyone will be out to beat them. I expect they will be going all out to win the league this season.
Vauxhall Motors have a good set up and will be one of the teams to watch during the season. Lower Breck will be a tough team as always and will have some of the best local talents playing for them.
We will be aware of Wythenshawe Town having knocked us out of the Vase a couple of years ago, they are a well-run club with players with plenty of experience behind them.
The established teams in the league will also be providing the usual challenge and Longridge Town, they are possibly the best ‘footballing’ side in the league so expect them to be at the front.
Winsford United who we faced in the St Luke’s Cup, look to have assembled a good unit and again expect them to be well placed.
There will be local “Derbies” to look forward to with AFC Liverpool and Lower Breck along with REMY, Burscough and Ashton Athletic, so plenty of local rivalry to whet the appetite.
NO DOUBT YOU WILL BE GLAD TO GET BACK PLAYING FULL TIME AGAIN?
With the last two seasons being curtailed, I am eagerly awaiting the start of the coming season, mainly to have supporters back in the grounds. We had built up a good following at home before covid stuck, I have said it before and I will say it again, that the encouragement from the side lines propelled us on to greater things in a number of matches, remember we were 2 down in our first FA cup game against Penistone and the lads were encouraged from all in the ground, it does make a big difference, hopefully we can continue from where we left off.
We have proved over the past two seasons we are capable of beating any team, we will need to be more consistence in all areas to compete at the very top but I’m looking forward to a good season.
Bring it on