When Dave Dempsey first took the role at in 2017 at Ashton Town, he thought they would be playing in the NWCFL, but after finishing bottom they were relegated to the Cheshire Premier League - but bounced straight back.
"It’s my third year this year. I started off when they were down In the Cheshire League. I took the job then I got a phone call a week or so later saying that they’d actually been relegates so the job spec had changed slightly. We honoured the interview and I took the job in the Cheshire League. We got promoted in our first year. With the restructure we had a half-decent season.
"We had to start from scratch really, in my first year. Last year was a bit of a transitional year for us. We had the lads from the season before then changed it slightly after Christmas so that we improved. Next year’s our third season so it should be interesting.
"At the start of the season we sat down with Mark and the Committee and they asked me what my aspirations were. The year before I took over they’d only got fourteen points at the finish and dropped out of the League. Just because we’d had a season in the Cheshire League, where it was a slightly easier division and found ourselves promoted back in, which was great, we still had a little bit of work to do, to be fair. It was nowhere near the finished article that we wanted.
"I said a top half finish and a cup would be a very, very successful year for me. I didn’t think about where the club was when I took over but you always want more, don’t you? If you finished second, you’d want to finish first. You can always reach your targets but you always push for that little bit more.
On the whole I’d say it was a successful season for us, in terms of the size of the club that we are and the last few years that the club have had in the Counties. Everyone at the club was happy and we’re just looking forward to trying to improve on that now. "
"We’ve recruited a couple of players, not many. The main part of the recruitment for me was keeping hold all the lads. I think we only lost three or four after Christmas last season. We were on a really good run and the team spirit was right. It can be a balance, especially in non-league football, from my experience. You can have a really good dressing room, a really good atmosphere and the manager can bring in five or six players, unneeded, and that can swing in a negative way.
"So at the end of last season we said we didn’t need many players. There are always one or two areas that you want to improve on so we’ve gone out and got those players. I’m really happy with how we’re shaping up at the minute. One of the main recruits was Chris Stammers, an A-licence coach. We had to part ways with Assistant Manager Frank Smith, who did a great job for me. He’s gone off to Rylands and I’ve gone out and got the bloke that I wanted to replace him. He’s hit the ground running with his sessions. "
After the infamous signing of Pascal Chimbonda, Dempsey hasn’t lined up any further Premier League signings just yet, “Not yet! We’ve got Stephen Bunting but he’ll not be doing much on the football pitch! No premier League players this year, unfortunately! You never know with Mark Hayes. It wasn’t really myself who did that. I just welcomed him in, said hello and it was really good of him last year. If something else does pop up, it’s great for the club and the community. Everybody in Ashton was talking about it. We got 100-odd people more on the gate and he gave the club a bit of the lift that it needed, to be honest. It was good for everybody involved.
And going forward, “Just improve, I think. There will be a lot of managers looking to finish in the top four but for Ashton Town, if we could go up a league, great, but we had a half-decent season last year and we just want to improve on that. Anything above ninth would be smashing. We don’t want to get carried away with a restructure and we could do to do this… We’re not going to throw hundreds and hundreds of pounds at it; we’re not going to break the bank. The club’s a business. We need to make sure the finances are looked after and we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot if we put all our eggs in one basket and it doesn’t quite happen.
"I’m happy with the group of lads that we’ve got. We finished ninth last year and the message to the boys will be just enjoy the ride and finish as high as we can. Anything below top half will be not the best of seasons. Anything above ninth would be brilliant. We’re going to push everyone and hopefully compete against the best teams in the League.
"Prestwich Heys, AFC Liverpool and those sort of teams who were up there last year, I’m sure they’ll strengthen on what they have. Pilks, Golcar and Emley are coming into the League and I don’t know what they’re like. We just need to compete in the top half. I won’t sit here and say that I think we’ll win the League or finish in the top four. Hopefully we’ll give it a right go but, if it doesn’t come off, as long as the lads are enjoying it and push into that top half, then I’ll be happy. "
A big thank you to Ellie Dalglish for transcribing.