STORKS boss Steve Wilkes has been humoured by the gulf that separates the lifestyles of professional and semi-pro footballers.
The ‘big freeze’ has proved a clear indication of their contrasting fortunes of late, with Padiham’s squad set to be tested to its limits with a hectic schedule on the horizon.
While coaches in Europe’s elite leagues cautiously debate whether to risk playing their prized assets twice a week, Wilkes’s side, along with a host of other teams plying their trade at a similar level, will soon embark on a run of weekend-midweek-weekend fixtures.
In addition to that, aside from earning an infinitesimal percentage of what the globe’s stars earn, the pertinacious cast of the North West Counties Football League are forced to fit training sessions in around their congested working week.
“We don’t have the finances or the facilities to provide luxuries such as massages and ice baths,” declared Wilkes.
“I have lads who work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday and then have to play at the weekend and midweek. It really can take its toll but they just get on with it.
“It makes me laugh when managers in the professional game come out and say they don’t want to risk players playing twice a week.
“They are earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a week so they should be playing for that, not being rested due to ‘burn out’. My lads don’t earn much at all - it’s a completely different world.”
The past week was to prove a defining moment in Padiham’s campaign, with a local derby against Colne, the Lancashire Co-Operative Trophy semi-final with Bacup Borough, and tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash away at Bootle on the agenda.
But the wintry weather hampered Padiham’s progression as they looked to extend their seven-game unbeaten run.
Wilkes, who is doubtful that tomorrow’s clash with Bootle will go ahead, said: “The weather isn’t good for us, and it’s not looking good for the weekend either. It’s been somewhat of an anti-climax for us. It was supposed to be the biggest week of the season with a local derby against Colne, a cup semi-final against Bacup and a big league game against Bootle.
“It could’ve been a great week for the club but unfortunately it hasn’t panned out that way.”
He added: “We’ve got a massive game to look forward to tomorrow but again I don’t think it will be on.
“If it does go ahead then it will be a great occasion and there’s no better incentive for the lads to go out and beat Bootle with the semi-final against Bacup on the horizon. They are the only team that can catch us with games in hand at the moment so it would be a great way to build up to our cup game by beating them.
“Temperatures are continuing to plummet so I don’t think we will play. It’s a shame because we’ve only played once in January. It’s happened to everyone else so we’re not on our own but we’re desperate to play football.
“We’ve needed games to keep this run and our momentum going. We had embarked on a six-game winning streak before drawing with Stockport Sports so we wanted to get back to winning ways as quickly as possible. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to do that.”
The Storks remain second in the Premier Division, hot on the heels of leaders Maine Road, and Wilkes is predicting an exhilarating race for the title. “I’d say it’s about a four or five horse race at the moment for promotion,” he said.
“It’s really tight and anybody up there could do it at the moment. Colne are in with a shout, Bootle are a lot of games behind everyone else and Maine Road have already got the points on the board. It’s hard to read who is in pole position.
“We are taking things one game at a time and we don’t want to look too far ahead. That’s how it has been all season. We are just desperate to play games, it’s been a while, but the players are always in good spirits and are capable of motivating themselves.”
Meanwhile, Wilkes has swooped to land Barnoldswick Town’s Jack Overson (pictured) - son of former Claret Vince - a player he believes will only embellish the squad already at his disposal at the Arbories. “Jack will give us experience because he’s played at this level for a long time,” Wilkes said. “He’s versatile and can play in three or four positions.
“I want him to come and fight his way in to the first team, that’s obviously why we’ve signed him. He’s another local lad, he knows what the club is about and he’s played here before. He will be a great signing for us.”