Padiham FC boss Steve Wilkes wants his players to acknowledge just how remarkable their achievements have been this season.
Before a ball had even been kicked the club were enlisted as one of the division’s favourites for relegation, and those odds would’ve plummeted considerably given the challenges that the squad has endured throughout the term.
But with seven games remaining the Storks have given themselves a huge chance of retaining their status in the Evo-Stik League First Division North which, Wilkes believes, is a credit to his squad.
“I can’t ask any more of my players because they’ve been brilliant,” he said. “Everyone has been absolutely fantastic this term. Considering everything that we’ve had to contend with - the injuries, the budgets, the experience of opposition players, the strength of teams we’ve come up against - I think we’ve been superb. It’s been a massive task.
“If we stay up it will be a huge achievement and it’ll feel like winning the league again. We are all new to this level and everyone involved at Padiham Football Club needs to understand just how well they’ve done. It’s credit to the squad that we’re in a position to retain our status in this division. We know we can do it.”
This time last year the Storks were battling with Maine Road, Bootle, Runcorn Town and Winsford United for the North West Counties Premier Division title, which they eventually won. Just 12 months on the club is fighting with Wakefield, Radcliffe Borough, New Mills and Prescot Cables to avoid relegation back in to the ninth tier of English football.
“We’ve got to show the same character and spirit that we showed as a club at this stage last year,” Wilkes said. “This is the same kind of battle but for a completely different reward. We won the league against the odds, now we need to repeat our successes and stay up.
“Football is habitual whether you are winning or losing. Last year we were in the habit of winning and took that through to winning the title. At the moment we are losing matches but we need to find a remedy to crack that habit. We need a response. There’s a contrast in confidence from this point last season, but the players are matching the effort. They’ve worked their socks off and I’m proud of them.”
Tomorrow the Storks travel to Church Lane hoping their prayers will be answered in their fixture with relegation rivals New Mills, kick-off 3 p.m.
“It’s another massive game for us,” said Wilkes. “New Mills are third from bottom so it’s our chance to open up a gap going in to the final few games of the season. The table will certainly look a lot rosier if we win. I think Ossett Albion have gone now so there’s ourselves and four other sides looking to avoid that final relegation spot.”