Padiham boss fuels fire to win after stepping out for Padiham veterans

Fit again: Padiham are able to call upon the services of former Blackburn Rovers forward Curtis Haley

Fit again: Padiham are able to call upon the services of former Blackburn Rovers forward Curtis Haley

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Storks boss Steve Wilkes has resuscitated his will to win after stepping back on to the playing field.

Wilkes has entered a Padiham FC side into the National Veterans Competition, where they’ll take on opposition from Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire, Harrogate and Sheffield.

And he’s assembled a squad that includes former Preston North End quartet Lee Ashcroft, Lee Cartwright, Ian Bryson and Graeme Atkinson, one-time Clitheroe FC managerial pair Pete Smith and Kenny Mayers and Bamber Bridge boss Neil Crowe.

After beating Dronfield Vets 5-0 in their opening fixture, Wilkes said: “We’ve only won twice all season in the Evo-Stik League so it was surreal. I’d forgotten how it felt.

“The last time we tasted victory was on October 25th and we’ve lost 12 successive league games and a cup tie since then.

“It’s been a while, it’s been difficult, but I want to get that feeling back as manager of Padiham.”

He added: “I realised why I retired at 36. I only played 20 minutes but my groin and knees were in pain.

“It’s brilliant and good to see some of the lads again.

“I hadn’t played for about six years but it was a nice release from the pressure of management.”

Padiham’s last victory came 82 days ago against Farsley AFC, who are now chasing a play-off spot in the First Division North.

Jack Phillips’ stoppage time equaliser for Prescot Cables in a 3-3 draw against New Mills was a blessing for Wilkes, but he acknowledges that they need to look after themselves as they sit 12 points adrift of safety.

Ahead of the game against Jim Gannon’s Northwich Victoria tomorrow, he said: “It’s back to reality this weekend with another tough game but we are ready to go again after training hard.

“It was a great result from our point of view with Prescot Cables and New Mills sharing the points but we need to get some points on the board ourselves.

“The result was perfect but we’ve got to look after number one rather than relying on results elsewhere.

“We need to win as many games as we can.

“I’ve spoken to a few managers about player availability but there’s nothing about.

“We need to go with what we’ve got.

“Ben Allen picked up a slight knee injury so we’re unsure if he’ll be fit but Curtis Haley is back.

“The break has done us good. It’s given us time to reassess and enabled some of our injured players to return.”