No emotional attachment for Smith ahead of reunion

Liam Smith. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
Liam Smith. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Joint Storks boss Liam Smith is refusing point-blank to get caught up in the emotion or politics of Saturday’s clash with Northwich Victoria.

Only a couple of months have elapsed since Steve Wilkes walked away from Well Street in unamicable circumstances but the long-serving former Arbories chief will be on the sidelines once again, albeit in the opposition dug out, when Padiham are the visitors at Townfield.

Wilkes, who led Padiham to promotion to the Evo-Stik First Division North in 2013, ended a decade long affiliation with the club at the back end of August having experienced defeat in all four of his opening fixtures this term and uprooted his managerial team of Steve Pickup and Andy Payton.

But the trio weren’t out of the game for long and, with the help of one-time Storks striker Jay Hart, they’re slowly but surely pushing the Vics up the Hallmark Security Premier Division table.

“We’re looking forward to it but it’s just another game for us,” Smith said. “There has never been a rivalry between Padiham and Northwich and we won’t be buying in to anything of that nature. We won’t be getting caught up in the emotion of it all.

“What’s happened has happened but none of my players will be eaten up by it. There’s no derby feel to this fixture at all. We’ll be going about it like we do any other game. We will approach it in the right way.

“We’ve come across Steve (Wilkes) a few times before. He’s never beaten us so he’ll be looking to avenge that.

“I can’t comment on all the stuff that happened at Padiham during his tenure but there’s been a big turnover of players so there shouldn’t really be an issue.

“I get on with them all - Wilkesy, Steve Pickup and Andy Payton, who is Dixon Lambert’s cousin. I’m looking forward to catching up with them. We’ve played them four or five times and we’ve won the majority. I don’t see it as a rivalry though.”

Smith, who succeeded Wilkes at the helm alongside Dixon Lambert, stressed that there’s certainly no bad blood or animosity between the opposing groups, adding that his squad will be approaching the fixture like any other this term.

With just one defeat in 10, the ambition for Smith is to take another three points to keep that run going and close in on the rivals above them in the table.

“You can almost let the situation take over your emotions,” he said. “I’ve been in games where I’ve seen it happen. You can be too pumped up and it can be detrimental.

“The players can’t afford to lose their heads because they’ll start to make irrational decisions. They need to stay calm and collected.

“Our aim is to win every game and we will be aiming for another three points. We still haven’t clicked yet and we’ve still got a lot more to offer. We’ve got another two or three gears to go through yet.

“We demand high standards and we want to achieve them. We’ve only lost one in 10 but there’s still more in the tank.”

Meanwhile, former Storks boss Steve Wilkes won’t dramatise his reunion with his former employers at Townfield.

The one-time Preston North End midfielder appreciates that it will be a strange experience going up against his old club having spent the best part of a decade at the Arbories but his sole focus is on getting maximum points for Northwich Victoria.

Wilkes took charge of more than 500 games during his stay with the Storks and engineered promotion to the Evo-Stik First Division North but his reign ended in unceremonious circumstances.

Ahead of the Hallmark Security Premier Division clash, he said: “I’m not going to dramatise it and I’m not going to be controversial either.

“It will be a strange experience for me because it’s been my football club for 10 years and I’ve managed more than 500 games in that time.

“I had 10 very good years there but the way it ended will always hurt. My focus is on Northwich Victoria and my job is to keep them in this division so we can have a good crack next season.

“Padiham mean nothing to me now. Coming to Northwich has been a breath of fresh air. It’s a proper football club and we’ve got some good footballers in our side.”

Wilkes added: “I don’t wish any harm towards Padiham, I’ll shake hands and I’m not going to snub anybody.

“I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill. It will be strange but I’ve got to try and get my team three points.

“I want to win this match more than anybody. I wish Liam Smith and Dixon Lambert all the best in their adventure at Padiham Football Club.

“There’s certainly no animosity between us. They’ve done a very good job. They’ve won games and brought a lot of new players to the club and I’ve done the same at Northwich.

“I’ll be grown up about the whole situation. It’s just another game of football and I won’t let my emotions take over.”