In the second of his chats with club management and players, Andrew talks to first team captain Simon Ainge who reveals his thoughts on being appointed skipper, prospects for promotion, life in the BSN and the team’s reponse to exiting the FA Cup.
CLUB skipper Simon Ainge doesn’t want to get too excited but he does feel that a second consecutive promotion is a strong possibility.
Consolidation was a word banded about at the start of the season with most fans at Nethermoor Park expecting tough times just two divisions outside the Football League.
But Ainge, 22, feels Conference North soccer is actually easier than another season in the Unibond (now Evo Stik) league would have been.
“I’d like to think we can go up,” he stated. “Obviously we just need to concentrate on the games first and see how we go.
“This next month is important, we’ve got a couple of tough games against Droylsden and Telford and we need to get as many points as we can there, but I think promotion is possible.
“At the start of the season we just wanted to make ourselves solid in this league, not have any embarrassing results and finish mid-table or maybe in the play-offs. But personally I thought we would be up there again.
“I think the lads have found it a bit easier than league below because they get to play a bit more football and teams seem to stand off us a bit more. All our attackers have space to express themselves and we can play out from the back, which suits us.
“You can see from all the teams that have come up like us, Boston and Nuneaton, that they are up there and there isn’t much difference between the leagues.”
As a commanding centre back Ainge was more hurt than most by the recent drubbing in the FA Cup by big spending Conference Premier outfit Crawley Town.
However, he’s extremely proud of the manner his troops have bounced back with two league wins on the spin.
“Obviously we we’re all disappointed about the 5-0 beating by Crawley but I think everyone saw they were a really good team,” Ainge said.
“I think the 5-0 flattered them a little bit. We had to go out once we went two goals down and they hit us on the break and took all their chances but that’s what they’re paid to do.
“We’ve bounced back really well though. Workington was a hard place to go, it was a long journey and we ground a result out. At the weekend the 3-1 over Stalybridge was a really good win against a team that will probably cause a few problems for other teams.”
When not making crunching tackles, Ainge works as a recruitment consultant. It’s a far cry from the days when he was a full-time pro at Bradford City but he is loving every minute of his new life.
“It was a disappointing to leave Bradford and I think if I’d have stuck at it and gone on trial at few clubs I could have stayed in league football but it was time for me to start playing every week and enjoying my football again.
“It’s not enjoyable when you’re training everyday but you’re not playing or you’re on the bench. It’s hard to take so moving into non-league has been the best decision I’ve made.
“I went to Bradford Park Avenue for a bit because I had a couple of friends there but it didn’t work out and I wanted to get out of there so I spoke to Kitty and he said he’d sign me straight away.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last year of football since I’ve come here, it’s been the best time I’ve had since I was playing on a Sunday morning as a kid.”
And to add to the enjoyment he’s had serving at Nethermoor, the strong and versatile defender was given extra boost earlier in the season when boss Steve Kittrick made him captain.
“It was a privilege,” Ainge enthused. “I was shocked to be honest. Kitty pulled me to one side when Jez and Cotty weren’t playing and said ‘do you want to be captain?’ and we’ve not lost in the league since. I’m loving the responsibility.”
Who knows, if results keep going the way they have in his first season with the armband could be a very successful campaign indeed.