NEW chairman Paul Hilton has promised there will be goals at RADCLIFFE BOROUGH this season. Hilton took over the reins from club stalwart Bernard Manning Jr towards the end of last season and his arrival has heralded a new era for the Evo-Stik North club.
At 35, Hilton must be one of the youngest chairmen in non-league and he has the ambition and enthusiasm that comes with youth. Manning’s battle to keep Boro competitive at step four became increasingly difficult in recent years and he was ready to step aside as the club’s major shareholder, although he remains firmly involved.
Hilton, who has gained plenty of experience at local amateur side Mace FC, has since secured some vital sponsorship deals and introduced a more organised, professional approach. Stainton Park is now known as Taurus Park while Xpro, the charity for ex-footballers, have become the main shirt sponsor, and Hilton has welcomed back Bill Prendergast as manager.
Formerly director of Crewe’s famed academy, Prendergast had less than two weeks in charge in 2015 before choosing to leave as he felt the club wasn’t ready for the system he wanted to bring in. All that’s changed now.
Hilton told Beyond the Big Two: “The squad is forward thinking and it plays into what Bill calls ‘front-foot football’, which we’ve played in pre-season. We’ve played some excellent stuff, it’s been quite encouraging, and the supporters seem to be very happy with the style of football we’re playing. It’s exciting to watch.
“I can’t guarantee you’ll come and see wins. What I can guarantee is that we’ll go for it. We set up to play attacking football and we don’t say sorry for it. We’re going to try to win games, to entertain, to enjoy our football – and we’ll do it in the most professional manner we can.”
Boro began pre-season on May 21, with Prendergast telling all of last season’s squad they were welcome to stay. The departures included Rich Smith, Jamie Forbes and Sam McMahon for Ashton United, but key men such as Elliot Rokka, Danny Ashburner and new captain Jack Hindle remain.
Prendergast boosted his strike force by bringing in Raul Correia (Chorley) and Abou Sanogo (Northwich) and has a coaching staff of nine. He even took the squad to the University of Bolton for pre-season lab testing, a week after League One neighbours Bury had been in there.
“We’ve got an excellent squad of players who’ve all bought into what we’re trying to so, ultimately, they’re more suited to us now than what we could really have ever got the other lads to,” Hilton added.
“Bill’s coined a phrase ‘non-leagitis’. There’s a mentality amongst many non-league players that we’re trying to get away from. They’re thinking like a non-league player, not like a pro. They’re not conditioning themselves and training in a particular way. It’s that mentality of ‘this is where I play my football’, not thinking ‘I can be better than this, if I give myself the opportunity by doing the right things’. That’s what we do now with everything we do, we’re trying to get them to look upwards.
“We want players that are capable of playing at a higher level rather than catching players who are going in the other direction. It’s a completely new outlook, a completely new Radcliffe Borough in many ways.”
Boro kick off their campaign away to Brighouse Town on Saturday before hosting local rivals Mossley on Tuesday night. They haven’t finished higher than 15th since the 2009/10 season but Hilton is confident they will competing at the right end of the Evo-Stik North this term.
“We’ve got a squad of 20 lads who’ve been together for eight weeks,” he said. “We know we’re capable of playing good football and scoring goals. Right now there’s nothing to say we can’t win the league. Six weeks into the season we might think differently. You adjust your sights accordingly. But there’s no point thinking any other way right now.
“You’ve got to be more unashamed about it. We’re not going to shout from the rooftops ‘we’re going to win the league’. That’d be foolish. But you’ve got to have a mindset that you’re capable of it. If we play to our potential, then why not? And we’ll re-assess as we go.”