New Colne boss Steve Cunningham is determined to one day be stood in the opposite dug out to close friend and mentor Steve Wilkes in an Evo-Stik First Division North encounter.
The pair were first united at Runcorn Linnets five years ago - with Cunningham as skipper and Wilkes as manager of the Cheshire club - before they extended that partnership to the Arbories, enjoying unprecedented success as Padiham’s management team as the Storks were crowned NWC Premier Division champions last season.
Now Cunningham is hopeful of imitating that success in his new role at the XLCR Stadium. “I’ve learnt a lot from Steve Wilkes and I’ve known him for a long time,” he said. “We’re very close friends. I was his captain at Runcorn Linnets so it was nice to keep that bond going as his assistant at Padiham.
“We took the job on at the Arbories together and I loved it. We enjoyed a lot of success there. Steve’s main skill is man management and he knows how to get the best out of his players.
“I would love to be in the opposite dugout to him and battle for three points one day. I want to get Colne out of the North West Counties. We want to be the best team in the area and to do that we have to better Padiham because they’ve set the bar. I think this club has the potential to do that.”
After overlooking the 1-0 defeat away to Ashton Athletic at the weekend, Cunningham, who signed for the Reds as a player following a scholarship in America in 2002, met with club representatives to share his vision and ambition for the future of the club.
“It’s been a bit of a long time coming,” he said. “It’s a bit of a whirlwind at the minute because of how quick it has happened, especially after the success I was having at Padiham. But this is a job I’ve been after for a long time and I want to stamp my authority on it. It’s a tough task and it’s certainly opened up my eyes to the challenges ahead.
“I had a successful meeting with Lee Duerden from XLCR as well as the club directors and they shared my vision. We want to take this club forward but first we need to stabalise the first team and put the heartbeat back into the club. We want to create a family football club like it was when I was here as a player.
“We’ll get back to basics this year, ready for a successful campaign next year where we’ll look to be competitive and contend at the top. But I want to win matches so I’ll be looking to strengthen the squad and win as many games as possible this term. I fell in love with the club as a player and made a lot of friends here. I want to bring success.”
Cunningham will undertake his first home game as boss against Congleton Town tomorrow with kick-off at 3 p.m.
On Saturday, Cunningham’s first game gave him plenty of food for thought, as the Reds slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Ashton Athletic.
The winner came 18 minutes from time as a free kick was pushed onto the bar by Chris Thompson, but Joe Hull reacted well to head home as it dropped in the goalmouth.