Chairman eyes promotion for Padiham

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Shaun Astin feels that promotion is a realistic aim for Padiham should the proposed National League restructure open up more windows of opportunity.

The transition started this season with the introduction of new divisions at Step 3 and Step 4, as well as two new Step 6 leagues, but that is just the start.

The vision, according to Laurence Jones, the Head of the National League System, is to have a symmetrical, sustainable and robust pyramid in place by the 2020/21 campaign.

Work in implementing two new Step 5 competitions is still ongoing, but Astin is hopeful that an innovative 1-2-4-8-16 design will bring with it more avenues of progression.

“At the moment, come New Year, you’re looking at the league and accepting that you can’t catch the leading pack,” said the Ruby Civil Arena chairman.

“Clubs then amend their budget and expectations and start looking towards the following season instead. It makes the league a little bit flat because there’s no competition.

“Introducing a new structure would give teams more to play for, there’s more of a chance to go up. The overall ambition for us as a club is to get promoted.”

Joint bosses Liam Smith and Dixon Lambert already have a promotion to Step 4 on their CVs, having been Steve Cunningham’s right hand men when Colne were successful in making the leap in 2016.

And in time, when the players have added to their resumes in the Hallmark Security Premier Division, Astin believes that the management duo, armed with first team coach Alex Norwood, will own a squad capable of challenging.

“They have the experience of doing that, they know this league very well,” Astin said. “They know every player, every team, they’re like walking encyclopaedias.

“Everything is just a work in progress at the moment. These players will be established in a couple of seasons, they’ll be real talents, so the challenge is to try and keep hold of them. They’ll be well looked after at Padiham.

“I want them to consolidate and get this squad settled as soon as possible. I’d be happy with a top seven finish now, but I know Liam and Dixon will want more because they’re forward thinking.

“They’ll be looking at third or fourth, but we’ve got to be realistic. If a play-off system is introduced next year, then we’ll be aiming for promotion.”

One piece of business, in-particular, gives a clear indication of what Padiham are up against though.

Cash-rich rivals Runcorn Town, currently second in the table, added former Bayern Munich winger Dale Jennings to their ranks at the Viridor Community Stadium.

Astin said: “There are a lot of teams throwing a lot of money at it in this league. It shows how well this squad is doing to compete at this level.

“Runcorn Town have signed Dale Jennings. It wasn’t so long ago that he was at Bayern Munich. He’ll be on a lot of money and that feels like a kick in the teeth for clubs like us.

“It’s a great story for this league. He’s had a massive fall due to injury, so his head and his heart will have to be in the right place if he’s going to do well at this level.

“It won’t happen for him if he doesn’t want it. There’s some big money being spent and we just can’t compete with that. We will never get a big investor.”

l First half goals from Steven Jones, Carl Peers, Connor Millington and Ryan Cox condemned the Storks to a 4-0 defeat against Bootle at the TDP Solicitors Stadium on Tuesday.

They’ll look to bounce back at home to Shelley in the Macron Cup tomorrow.

l Burnley Belvedere kept up the heat at the top of the Lancashire Amateur League Premier Division with a 4-2 derby win at Old Blackburnians on Saturday at the Memorial Ground.

Billy Lane netted twice, to add to a strike from Lee Barrett and an own goal, as the Greens stayed a point behind leaders Whitworth Valley – who also won 4-2 – with a game in hand.

Belvedere have no league fixture on Saturday, and are in the cup a week a week on Saturday at home to Lymm AFC.

The reserves were unlucky to go down 1-0 at Feniscowles.

l Burnley United’s Lancashire Amateur Cup tie against Shevington of Wigan on Saturday fell victim to the wet weather.

The reserves’ East Lancashire League Second Division clash with Langho Reserves at the Rhyddings was also postponed after the deluge of rain.

On Saturday, United’s first team make the trip to Read Recreational Field to face Read United in the Storefirst East Lancashire League First Division.

The reserves are at Barden against Oswaldtwistle St Mary’s Reserves, with kick-off at 2-15 p.m. in both fixtures.