STEVE Burr has told his new STALYBRIDGE CELTIC players to keep the faith after being tasked with steering the club to National League North survival.
Burr led Bridge to the Conference North play-off final in 2008 before being lured to Kidderminster in January 2010, but he returned to Bower Fold last week to replace joint-managers Steve Halford and Paul Phillips.
Celtic are second-bottom in the table and didn’t play at the weekend so are now 13 points from safety with 15 games left. Burr admits it is a tall order to avoid relegation but has challenged his players to pull off a Great Escape.
“It’s happened really quickly and I’m just delighted to be back in work,” he said. “It’s a club I’ve been to before and I have many happy memories here. But as I’ve said to the players, what I did in the past counts for nothing, it’s what we do now and moving forward. I’m looking forward to it, I really am.
“We know it’s a tough ask for us to stay up but we’ll try to do everything we can to achieve that. The odds are heavily stacked against us but I’ve been around long enough in football to know that things can be achieved.”
Burr begins his second spell in charge with back-to-back games against Salford City, with a Manchester Premier Cup semi-final at home on Tuesday night before travelling to Moor Lane on Saturday for a crucial league game.
Keeper Grant Shenton is Cup-tied and Phillips was Bridge’s back-up keeper, but Burr managed to sign Oldham youth keeper Callum O’Neill on work experience in time for the midweek clash. He’s also brought in midfielder Mathias Bakare from Ryman League Southern Division club Aveley FC, who can also play on Tuesday night.
Burr has also invited Andy Fearn and Neil Tolson to join his backroom team. Fearn worked with Burr at Bridge and Kidderminster and returned to Bower Fold to assist Keith Briggs during his spell in charge from 2013-15. Tolson was Hyde manager before assisting Lee Sinnott at Altrincham and having a spell at caretaker boss.
Burr added: “The squad’s not massive but it (the midweek game) is an opportunity for me to have a close look at them. There may be one or two new faces, and it is good timing that we have got a game (before the league clash).
“We’ll look to see where we can strengthen things. We may have to move one or two players on to release a bit of money.
“But it’s not like the team have been getting hammered every week, it’s just the fact that they haven’t been winning. A bit of fine-tuning may have to be done to turn those close defeats into wins. Draws are no good for us at this stage, we need wins, so it’s about getting the most wins that we can, but it’s mainly just starting to win matches.”
Bridge reached the Premier Cup final last year for the first time since 1970, losing 3-1 to Mossley. Saturday’s game with 3rd-placed Salford is the priority and Burr believes that, come the weekend, Celtic can give the Ammies a run for their money.
“They’re a very strong outfit and we know how difficult it’s going to be there, but we’ll be going there to try to win,” he said. “I’ll have had a good week to prepare with the players. Hopefully we’ll get through everything fine on Tuesday and we don’t pick up any injuries, and we’ll be looking forward to going to Salford. It’s a place I’ve never been to before so I’m looking forward to it.”