North Walkden FC assistant first-team coach Anthony Staines is dreaming big after saying that he hopes the club can become semi-professional within five years.
The ambitious target has been set for the coaching staff and the players because Staines believes Walkden’s first-team squad is already strong and can make its way up the divisions.
However, it’s a long way up for the Sunday league club who are currently in the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL One League which is in the 14th tier of the English football pyramid.
On his long-term vision for the amateur club, Staines was unwavering in his optimism, he said: “My vision might be a bit different to everyone else, I’m looking to go semi-pro.
“That’s going to be long-term but we’ve just got our pitch now, got a few draining issues on that so we’re a little bit behind on schedule on the pitch.
“I’m looking to get floodlights installed but that will be a few years away, a clubhouse built again will be years away.
“The aim for me is to get into semi-pro and in 5 years time I don’t think we’ll be a million miles off but that’s ambitious.”
Staines was also happy that the club now plays at their own ground after years of their various age groups playing on council pitches and despite the setback in November last year, the club has started to reap the benefits of having their own home.
He said: “It’s been good, in terms of volunteers we’ve put a lot of hours in on the pitch, it looked great in the summer and obviously you don’t really know until you get into winter how it’s going to hold out.
“The drainage is struggling a bit so we’re going to have to do some work on it ready for next season because we’ve not managed many games in it.
“The potential for that is massive, it’s a great set up, it looks the part and the volunteers are there, it’s just getting the funding and finances in place to improve it.”
Despite some amateur leagues having to postpone their competitions in recent times due to the stricter tier system, North Walkden FC have been able to start playing again since the most recent national lockdown ended on the 2nd December and Staines explained why.
He said: “We’re in the Cheshire league and there’s only one or two teams in the full league who are in tier two and so all of us in tier 3 can play each other.”
He went on to say that despite some positive COVID-19 cases, the club has been able to carry on in relative normality and have built some momentum up in the league.
On the clubs league form this season, he said: “We had a bit of a poor start first few games, we got beat against Trafford United but we had two weeks off more than everyone else because one of our lads got Covid so we had to isolate for two weeks.
“We came back a bit unfit as you would expect because we can’t really train but after a bad start we came back with three straight results which got us back into the top half of the table with four games in hand on everyone.”
With the encouraging form North Walkden has shown recently, Staines was positive about his side’s chances of promotion this season and sees that as a realistic goal.
He said: “Definitely that’s the goal yeah, we’ve got a great squad, some of the players we’ve got should really be playing county level but that’s definitely the aim.”
On the opportunities for the U18s to progress into the first-team picture, he said it would be difficult to make the jump up but not impossible.
He said: “In terms of ability it would be very hard but I think as soon as they fill out, I don’t think it would be a problem because coming through the ranks at the club there’s some top talent.
“With the U18s, a lot of them have just filtered through, we’ve got two in the first-team at the minute and there’s four or five n the reserves.
“It is something we look to do at the club, build the youth up but we have got a very good set up at the minute at the open age and the reserves so it is a struggle.”
The present may be challenging and gloomy for everyone as COVID-19 still impacts our everyday lives but there is a future past this pandemic and for North Walkden FC, that future could be very bright.