Padiham boss Steve Wilkes admits he is currently enduring his most difficult time as a manager - but is relishing the challenge.
And as he looks to bolster his depleted squad - with Louis Mayers also joining Clitheroe earlier this week - he has urged potential signings to “come and be a Padiham hero!”
The Storks have nine points from 21 games - the halfway stage of the season - and are six points adrift of safety at the bottom of the Evo-Stik First Division North.
Wilkes feels earning survival from this point would be a greater achievement than winning the North West Counties Premier Division title two seasons ago.
Ahead of tomorrow’s trip to title challengers Salford City - part owned by the Class of ‘92, Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Nicky Butt - Wilkes said: “We’re struggling.
“I think this is the most difficult period I’ve had as a manager, but I’m relishing the challenge.
“If I can keep us up from the situation we are in, it would be as big an achievement as winning the league.
“I’m looking forward to it - I want to prove everyone wrong.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
Padiham go to Salford with seven players out injured - John Ross, Thomas Bradley, Sam Morris, Lewis Jordan, Dominic Craig, Mark Sharples and Curtis Haley - and Martin Parkes and Ben Allen suspended, on top of Mayers’ departure.
But Wilkes is hoping to bolster his squad beforehand: “The physio and myself are the busiest people at the club, but hopefully we will get one or two players in for the weekend.
“We’re looking at players from the league above who maybe aren’t getting a game, and at the league below at clubs who maybe can’t win promotion now.
“We can’t offer as much money as most clubs, but we can offer a challenge - come and pull us out of the mire and become a Padiham hero!”
As at Premier League level, money talks, and Padiham are up against it tomorrow: “Salford have Danny Webber, who I believe is on more than three times my weekly budget, and Gareth Seddon, who played for us, is on 150% more!
“That’s what we’re up against.
“Louis (Mayers) has joined Clitheroe, and that is money again, because, with all due respect, he’s not going there to win the league.
“We lost Jay Hart to Clitheroe recently as well, for over three times what he was on - eight players have left us for Clitheroe in 14 months.
“Whatever level you are at, it comes down to money.
“You can have spirit and togetherness, and that can get you so far, but you have to have quality.
“Look at the three teams at the top of the Premier League - Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
“And look at the teams at the top of our division - Northwich, Darlington, Salford and Droylsden.
“But I’m looking forward to going to Salford as a United fan, it’s an exciting game.
“We’re not going there with anyone expecting us to win, so the pressure is off, and the lads certainly should be up for it.”