NEW Padiham boss Steve Wilkes feels he owes the club after regrettably leaving more than four years ago.
Wilkes returns to the Arbories for a second spell in the hot seat after parting company with the Storks in January 2008 to fill the managerial vacancy at Runcorn Linnets. However, his time in Cheshire ended in turmoil as he was sacked by the Vodkat North West Counties Premier Division outfit, despite an unbeaten start to the 2010/11 campaign.
“I’m really pleased to be back,” he beamed. “It’s good to be back at Padiham Football Club and I’m looking forward to the challenge. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back I shouldn’t have left, there was just the pull of joining a club in a higher division.
“It’s taken me just over four years to get back and I feel I owe them something. I’m really going to get my teeth in to the job and I’m really excited about it. I’ve got a good affiliation with the club and I want to carry on the progression at Padiham FC.”
During his first stint at the Arbories, Wilkes guided the club to fourth and fifth finishes in the old Second Division in respective seasons from 2004 before registering third spot in the 2006/07 season. Now he’s determined to prove his worth in the Premier Division after being considered the most outstanding candidate for the position by Padiham FC’s committee.
“I wouldn’t have left Ashton Athletic for any other club,” declared Wilkes. “We had a good season there and it was a work in progress but when this job came along it was one I couldn’t turn my back on.
“I’m a different manager now from what I was when I left in 2008. I’ve learnt a lot over the years and evolved. There were some big names in the hat for the job so fingers crossed I can prove to Alan Smith and the committee that they’ve picked the right man.”
Wilkes’s warming and enthusiastic management style has already won plaudits among the Storks ranks with captain Martin Parkes, Martin Broderick and goalkeeper Sean Davis, among others, already committing themselves to the club for the forthcoming term.
“My best attribute is probably my man management, the relationship I have with the players and the way I communicate with them. It’s a semi-professional club but I make sure that things are done in a professional manner,” said Wilkes. “I try to use my past experience with Wigan and Preston and take that in to the dressing room and on to the training ground.”
Now with assistant manager Steve Cunningham on board and first team coach Danny Craig, formerly Colne FC’s youth development officer, adding his expertise to the fray, Wilkes is looking to unearth local talent while also promoting a healthy youth policy in a bid to develop the club.
“I’ve got fantastic back room staff with Steve Cunningham joining me as assistant,” he said. “His enthusiasm is second to none and he puts great training sessions on.”
Wilkes added: “I’ll be keeping a close eye on the reserves and youth team as well. It’s not just about the first team. I’ll be trying to integrate all the teams as best I can. I want to give the young kids a chance and let them know that if they’re good enough and they prove themselves then they’ll play. Clubs like Padiham depend on their youth development setup.”
Meanwhile, Padiham have confirmed pre-season friendlies with the development squads from both Burnley and Accrington Stanley. The Storks will host a Stanley XI on Saturday, July 28th (kick-off 3 p.m.) and a young Clarets’ side on Tuesday, July 31st (kick-off 7 p.m.), ahead of the season starting on August 4th.
The Storks will also travel to Longridge FC on Friday, July 13th and Coppull United on Tuesday, July 17th.