Vital club structure at Holker

Sun 30th June 2019 | General
By Craig Kendall

Holker Old Boys are in a pretty unique position, they are situated in the very south of Cumbria, far away from any major cities or large towns, and reside 40 miles away from their nearest rivals Cleator Moor Celtic - a 75 minutes drive!

The club was founded in 1936, and joined the North West Counties Football League in 1991, and have resided in the second tier of the NWCFL since 1999, after a short stay in the top flight.

More recently, they have been an inconsistent side, but they are hoping to get back on track as we heard from their Chairman Maurice Watkin and he told us how he first got involved, "A long, long time ago I took a junior side up to Holker.  It was about twenty years ago when I took the junior side up!  I was there for a while then my boy, who was by then becoming a bit older, had joined a junior side so naturally I went to follow him.  So that’s how I started really.  I used to manage a local junior side then Holker approached us to see whether some of the lads would come up so we just went up as a full team. 

"Kevin [Maurice's son] went to another local junior side when he got to 18/19.  He just said it was his belief that he wanted to go and play North West Counties football.  He went to Holker and he’s been at Holker ever since.  He’s been there ten or eleven years now as a player then he’s taken over as player-manager at the moment.

Waktin then went on to explain his thoughts on their 18th place finish last term, "Very disillusioned, really.  Unfortunately peoples’ commitments have changed now to when I used to play football.  There are that many things that they want to do now, don’t they?  We started off last season and never won a game for eleven matches.  We then had to make a decision of what we were going to do.  It was either ask the Manager to step aside so we could get somebody else and shake it up. 

"We were going to lose players, no doubt about it so we had to ask the Manager in place to stand down then Kevin, Paul and Glyn were the three lads who took it on.  They took over and we got on all through the season, which wasn’t easy because there was always the thought of relegation hanging above us.  We battled on through, which was not easy to say of some of the performances that we put out. 

"We were unlucky in games but were out of a lad who could get goals all the time.  We were always punished for missed chances then the opposition would score and you could see the heads drop.  Not the best of seasons!"

Having his son as one of the three managers explained, "At the moment I’ve found no difficulties with it.  I think it’s a good thing.  He’s been at the club long enough.  He knows what the club’s after, how we develop young boys coming through.  We are quite a young side.  He seems keen… well, all three of them are keen so they’re putting their own methods in. 

"I step back.  I do have my odd comments because I was Manager of Holker as well but it’s alright.  Everything’s going okay!  We’ll have to see how it goes."

Watkin does have fresh optimism going into the new campaign and reckons it will be more compatitive with more promotion places up for grabs, "Definitely!  You could tell the change in the League last season.  It was a hard division to play in last season.  Like you say, a lot of teams now put money in.  We don’t!  They pay us!  We’ve never had that policy to pay for players.  We do it for the love of it."

"When you think where we are, we’re out in the middle of nowhere so it’s not easy to attract players either.  To get someone to come from somewhere like Preston to play for us, it’s not on so we may have a thirty-mile radius where we can attract people in from but, other than that, we’ve got what we’ve got.  You’ve just got to put the commitment in and do what you can.  Or they’ve got to do what they can! 

"We’ve been in the North West Counties for a few years now.  We’ve played over a thousand games in the North West Counties over twenty years.  The commitment’s there.

"It’s very important to us [junior section stepping up].  This season we have eight junior sides ranging from eight years old up to senior level so we have quite a lot of young footballers coming through, hopefully.  They’re not all going to be wanting to play football when they get older but the structure’s there for them to come through.  It’s quite good. 

"It used to be juniors and senior sections but now we are Holker,  The idea is that the young ones come through the age groups and hopefully you get one or two that will progress to first team footballer. 

"It’s a long way!  That’s what people have got to appreciate.  To get to us it’s a two-hour journey or two-and-a-half hours.  Our derby is either at Carlisle or Blackpool so you’re talking a ninety- or a hundred-mile journey on a wet Wednesday night in December!"

The club has ambitions to get back into the NWCFL top flight, "We could get to the Premier probably but we wouldn’t go any further.   I don’t think it would be within our realms to go that far.  You’ve got the Kendals and the Penriths.  They’re Lancaster and they take all the people away from us and playing at a certain level. 

"We just hope it will be a better season than last season.  We don’t want to be keeping everybody above us!  The commitment’s there in all our lads.  Quite a lot of people say they don’t know how we do it but we do and hope we carry on for a few more years!"

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