Storks boss Steve Wilkes has dedicated the club’s sensational promotion from the North West Counties Premier Division to his late dad, Brian.
Wilkes’ father passed away in August after the Padiham boss had returned for a second spell in charge at the Arbories.
And after raising the trophy at Runcorn Town’s Pavilion Sandy Lane Stadium alongside his adopted Padiham family - despite a 1-0 defeat - he spared a thought for his biggest supporter.
“There were little things that happened during the season and you wondered then if it was going to be our year. My father passed away in August so I’d like to think he was helping me out.
“I looked around and I saw everybody celebrating with their parents. My dad had been following me through football since I was seven so not being able to take the trophy back to him and celebrate it with him was a bit of a disappointment. I’m sure he’s up there having a pint of bitter as we speak.”
It’s taken 16 years for the most spectacular moment in Wilkes’s managerial career to arrive as he guided Padiham to the highest level in their history, and it’s a memory he’ll savour for years to come.
“I don’t think words can describe it. It’s absolutely brilliant. It was a fantastic day, unfortunately we couldn’t get the result we wanted, but it’s not about the one game it’s about the 41 that came before it.
“It’s a fantastic feeling. I’ve been involved in football for a long time and these moments don’t come around very often. We’re going to enjoy it and we’re looking forward to the Evo-Stik. I’m ecstatic.
“I starting managing in 1997 so it’s a long time. It’ll take something special to top this moment. The players and staff have been brilliant, the football club is a brilliant place to work and I should never have left in the first place. I’d like to think I’ve repaid Alan Smith who deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done. He’s Mr Padiham.”
Now Wilkes insists that work will begin immediately to prepare his squad for the test that the Evo-Stik First Division North will provide - including fixtures against Darlington and Scarborough.
“All the work starts immediately. We’ll start looking for players next season. We need to identify targets early and identify where we can strengthen the squad. I’ll have to look at keeping hold of players that clubs will be looking at.
“This is the toughest league to get out of because only one team can go up.
“We’ve done that now and we’ll look ahead to the Evo-Stik. We won’t run before we can walk but we’ve got a decent squad.”