Steve Wilkes credited former England boss Sam Allardyce’s contribution for getting him into management as the Padiham boss celebrates his 900th game in the dug out.
The five-time Premier League manager of the month, who was in his second full-time post with Notts County at the time, was the man who convinced Wilkes to take the plunge in 20 years ago.
Wilkes, who played at Preston North End with Allardyce, had the captain’s armband for AFC Darwen and, following Allardyce’s advice and the words of encouragement from Roy Tunks, he decided to take the risk.
“My first game in management was a 1-1 draw against Congleton for AFC Darwen in 1997,” he recalled.
“I was captain at the club at the time and that summer Ian McGarry was sacked. They wanted me to have a go and at first I said ‘no’ because I was only 29.
“I spoke to Sam Allardyce and he told me to go for it. He told me that sooner or later I would know whether I was made for it.
“I also spoke to Roy Tunks who I knew from Wigan. He was like my mentor when he became assistant there. They were the first people that I rang for advice and they both told me to go for it. ”
Goals from Connor Hughes and Matthew Morgan saw the Storks succumb to a 2-0 defeat against Maine Road at Brantingham Road on Monday night, but the result hasn’t soured Wilkes’s excitement for reaching his milestone.
Ahead of tomorrow’s Hallmark Security Premier Division clash with New Mills, which kicks off at 3 p.m. at the Arbories, Wilkes reminisced about his most memorable moments.
“It’s my 900th game on Saturday,” said Wilkes, who has also had managerial spells with Runcorn Linnets and Ashton Athletic. “My most memorable moment from that time is when we won the league with Padiham.
“I’ve had some great results down the years though. I remember beating Southport away in the semi-final of the Lancashire Cup in 1999.
“The final was always played at Deepdale which was brilliant for me because I was a former player and it would have been special to take my team to play there.
“However, that season they switched the venue to Chorley. To make things worse we were beaten on penalties by Morecambe.”
Wilkes, who has signed son Zack for the remainder of the campaign, added: “Sometimes you wonder why you do it for so long, but I just love the game.
“I wouldn’t change anything. I’ve had some great experiences, been to some great places and signed some top players.”