Former Padiham boss Steve Wilkes ‘sad and disappointed’ after departure

Steve Wilkes is sad and disappointed with the way that his time with Padiham Football Club came to an end.

In two spells at the Arbories, the former Preston North End midfielder has governed around 500 games over the course of a decade with the club.

Steve Wilkes resigned last Friday

Steve Wilkes resigned last Friday

The 50-year-old, who has also had spells with AFC Darwen, Runcorn Linnets and Ashton Athletic, first joined the Storks in 2004 when they were stationed in the 10th tier of the Football League pyramid.

Wilkes enjoyed four seasons at Well Street and, following periods at Wincham Park and Brocstedes Park, returned for the 2012/13 campaign which proved to be the most successful of his managerial tenure.

Working on a shoestring budget, Padiham finished top of the North West Counties Premier Division and secured promotion to the Evo-Stik First Division North.

The Storks survived their first season at that level, culminating the term in 19th spot with 42 points, but they slipped down a tier the following season, missing out on survival by a solitary point.

Wilkes explained his decision: “It’s sad if I’m being honest. I’ve been there for 10 seasons over two spells with more than 500 games, led them to promotion in to the Unibond, but things haven’t been right for quite a while.

“I don’t want to come across as being bitter because I’m not. I’m disappointed. I resigned on Friday night and nobody from the football club has rang me to say good riddance, good luck or anything. There’s been nothing at all which to me shows that I’ve made the right decision unfortunately.

“The chairman (Shaun Astin) and myself - our relationship deteriorated and it came to a head on Friday.

“I asked him if we could meet up to clear the air before the game on Saturday and he said he didn’t have time.

“I was told to go to the football club for 6-30 p.m. and there would be a committee member there for me to speak to.

“When I got there it was the reserve team manager (Matt Ostle). I knew then that it was time for me to go.

“I resigned at 6-45 p.m. on Friday stating the fact that they had made my position untenable at the football club.”

Wilkes added: “I think they wanted me out but they didn’t have the front to do that. They just kept doing things that were pushing me further and further away from the football club.

“I had a lot of respect for the chairman. He used to be in the dug-out as part of my team. I was one of the focal people that pushed him for the job as chairman because I thought he’d do a good job.

“But it got to a stage where I was sending him text messages, emails, and he just wasn’t replying, he wasn’t answering. That’s the way it was going.

“I’m really disappointed because I’ve put a lot of time and effort in to Padiham. It’s really disappointing because we had high hopes for this season.

“It’s sad. I’ve still not had a phone call or text message from anybody at the football club which to me is really disappointing. I don’t want a statue in Padiham, just a ‘thank you’ for my time.”

Rumours surfaced that Wilkes, and assistant Steve Pickup, had been given the boot in the summer but no news emerged.

That uncertainty stalled preparations for the new season and then Wilkes was informed four days before the opening game of the season that his weekly budget had been severed.

“We had a good side - I know we’ve started off poorly but I think that’s been down to the unrest during pre-season,” Wilkes said. “I only found my budget out four days before we kicked off which is inconceivable because we can’t speak to players.

“I think we lost six or seven players in pre-season, who had agreed to come to us, because I couldn’t offer them the money they wanted as I didn’t know what money I had.

“I kept saying to Steve, ‘what is happening here? What are we still doing here?’ Everything we tried to do they’re always coming back with some negativity. Little things have upset me.”

He added: “I always will have fond memories of Padiham. It’s just so sad how it’s ended.

“I got up Saturday morning and my 17-year-old daughter wrote on Twitter ‘I’ve finally got my Dad back and he’s smiling’. She said that I’d not been myself for the past six months.”

The final nail in the coffin was hammered in when the club’s committee rejected a £50,000 investment from Pickup to improve various facets of the club.

Wilkes said: “The biggest thing is that Steve (Pickup), my assistant manager, had offered to put £50,000 in to the football club. The committee had a meeting without Steve being there, and promising that Steve would have a chance to put his plans across, and he got a phone call after the meeting saying ‘thanks for the offer but we’re not interested’.

“It’s a lack of ambition and I’m an ambitious person. I don’t want to stay in the North West Counties or the rest of my life. But that’s just the mentality of the club and the committee.

“We wanted to move the football club forward and it was an ideal opportunity to do that. We still don’t really know the reasons why they turned it down.”

l Padiham earned their first points on Tuesday night in a 5-1 home win over AFC Darwen.

Dominic Craig’s goal gave them a 1-0 half-time lead, before further strikes from Jay Hart , Chris Turner, Craig and Mark Coyne.

Padiham are at Runcorn Linnets tomorrow.