Rovers have found their roar again

Wed 16th August 2023 | Atherton LR
By Media Team

Atherton Laburnum Rovers have been on the up recently, they have been in the top 5 of the First Division North since the season kicked off and their football is winning plaudits from those who have seen them play.  There is talk of works taking place at the ground and the club have a big following in Africa!  To find out what's been going on we caught up this week with Atherton LR Chairman Shaun Lynch.  Shaun knows the club inside and out being a former Manager and someone who has been pivotal in the clubs rebuild in recent seasons.

That rebuild has contributed to a general feelgood factor around Crilly Park of late amongst the fans and volunteers. So with that in mind and after a few years of mild uncertainty, are things looking good now?

"Yeah I think we can say they are now, but it's taken a while.  When we came in we had a fair bit of work to do, the first year was just fire fighting and seeing what debts the club had and then sitting down with the people we owed bills to and working out how we could manage the bills and clear them.  We got a good group of people together right at the outset to help us work with the community and to re-establish our footing whilst also staving away the threat of folding.  The people and businesses of the town have been great with us and understood what we are trying to do here and have worked with us throughout."

"Fast forward 3-4 years and here we are with the club in a better place.  Our bills are managed, the long-standing lease issue resolved and we have a thriving community club with 20+ committed volunteers all geared towards helping the club.  The Manager is in and has an actual budget to work with now, we havent had that for years, the ground looks clean and tidy and the pitch is superb and testament to the massive amount of work Chris Mulcahy puts into it.  The bar is spotless and the pumps and workings refitted in recent years, stocking good beers and providing a good place for the club to come together.  We work with a local butchers now to provide pies and food with locally produced fayre on offer and that's been important to us to get that local emphasis.  People have voted with their feet as well, last season we were averaging 70-75 on the gate but with the fresh outlook we have at the club, combined with a good run towards the end of last season and good start to this, then we are currently bringing in 120+.  The club is growing again."

On the subject of building, there have been some demolition works at Crilly park, whats the situation with that?

"When we arrived at the club we had three wooden rooms in a structure beyond the changing rooms, they contained a club room, Managers Room and a food hut but it was life expired.  We needed to do something about it and brought in the new steel cabin that provides our matchday food offering, demolished the wooden structire and going forwards we are looking to remodel our buildings.  Long-term we are looking to extend the existing brick building out across the space that we have just cleared and then remodel the layout internally to include newer changing facilities and extend the clubhouse out.  We had a representative out from the FA the other week to look at things with us and give us some advice on the various planning and grant options that maybe available to us." 

"What we will look to do sooner rather than later is look to sort the clubhouse roof out first then improve the showers and then we can see what our options are with regards to the newbuild."

The Club are flying at the moment, top three at the time of the interview. That must be quite satisfying?

"Definately, the football is the main reason why we are all doing this.  In all honesty we havent had much to cheer about for a good while now on the pitch but now you can see a new-look LR team with a hungry Management Team who are keen for success.  We kept 5-6 players from last season who were involved in the good run we had towards the end of the campaign and Dave Jones has added 15-16 additional players to that to form what he believes is a competitive squad.  That has been shown so far this season in the good start that the team has had.  Within the coaching structire we have people/scouts going out to watch games and form analysis of oppositions and we have things like the Veo (Automatic game recording camera) in now so that we can review performances and tactics, so there is a lot going on behind the scenes."

You mentioned earlier the club has had a few lean years by the clubs own high standards, whats changed this season?

"All of the above really?  The Manager and coaching staff have made a huge difference and the type of player that we are bringing in now we have not been able to bring in for a few years.  To be fair, we have worked hard around the club to back the manager, as I mentioned earlier there is a budget there for him and the general good feeling around the place has helped.  I occasionally go out of a weekend to support local businesses and people have come up to me when i'm out for a drink or doing some shopping and are wanting to talk about LR, there is an enthusiasm there about it.  Atherton is a big footballing town with a number of football clubs in it and it's good to see that people are talking about us in positive terms again." 

That sound's positive, so as a result of this would it be fair to suggest that the club are looking to realistically challenge this season, or is it a season of build and consolidate?

"Before the season even started, we have the usual meetings that clubs have to discuss objectives and the like and what we don't want to keep doing is flirting with that relegation zone, it's so risky and unpredictable and as has been seen in recent seasons, the FA aren't afraid to relegate no matter how many teams are in the league.  We want to look further than that anyway, we believe mid-table, challenging for the play-offs can be done.  It's not easy, i'm a former manager myself of this club in this league and it's a strong division to get out of.  The Manager has the resources there to have a go if there is scope to do it." 

Looking at the league, what do you make of Division One North this season as a whole, some have said its more open this season than it has been for nearly a decade, would you concur with that?

"There's a lot to be said for that yes.  There's no Bury, Pilks or similar in the league this season that you can say are going to walk-it but that is not to say the league isn't strong.  We played South Liverpool last week who looked a strong outfit and could play a bit, we played Steeton and they looked a good outfit as well.  We have a game against Bacup and they have started very well too.  You look at Garstang beating Euxton the other night and you can see that clubs anywhere in the league can beat anyone.  You have Holker who always start slow then come through like a train as the season progresses, Route One Rovers seem to have burst on to the scene, looking useful and then there are FC St Helens who we have to play three times this season if you include our Lancashire Cup tie.  FC St Helens have plenty of admirers and are making the early pace so you would expect them to be in the mix too."

"Like many clubs, we will see what the landscape looks like around October and you will get a feeling of who's going to be in the mix.  Early season can be unpredictable with some squads being hit by holidays, University breaks, music festivals and the like."    

Last but not least, there are several pictures knocking about of Teams across Africa Lining up in the Full LR kit including Wanderers FC in Ghana. How did that come about?

"Well, it all started with the club getting a few likes from teams such as Wanderers in Ghana and they were showing us some of the clips of their games.  They're actually a good side at a good semi-pro level over there but some of their kit had seen better days.  We were reneweing our kit at the end of that season so I dropped them a line offering them our kit and a few track suits that we were replacing and they were into that.  I sent the kit over via a courier in Manchester who helped us out with some of the costing involved in sending it over and low and behold, they look the part and fair play to them, we wish them well and have built a bit of a relationship up with them."

Many thanks for Shaun for taking time out from his busy day to talk all things LR and we wish him and them well for the rest of the season.

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