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Ashton United Hope To Make It Third Time Lucky This Season
Wednesday 19th August 2015 @ 11:38 by Mark Phillip
Ashton Football Sports

Having suffered play-off heartache on two successive occasions, Paul Phillip’s is hoping it will be a case of third time lucky for Ashton United this season.

The player-manager is entering his third campaign with the Robins, and according to the 35 year old, only silverware will do.

“Since me and Steve arrived at Ashton, the club has made progress, but progress is no good when we’re not winning anything” he said.

The goalkeeper lives and breathes football, so it was only natural that he felt a great sense of dread at the end of last season.

Questioned about the play-off semi-final defeat to Curzon Ashton, Paul quipped “I felt like hanging myself. “I think it could have gone either way to be honest, as Curzon played the football, but I think we had the better chances.”

Describing the past season as an emotional rollercoaster, Paul added “It seems to be the story of our careers, losing on penalties in the play-offs.

“If I had to pick two players to put their chances away, one would have been Chris Baguley and one would have been Kevin Leadbetter, but there’s no point in dwelling on it.

“We’re back where we are, level on points with everyone else and we’ve got to put it right.”

The above statement is an acute reflection of Paul’s character.

A harsh critic of himself, the boss believes the past two seasons haven’t been good enough. He said “I got the opportunity to come and manage the club, and up to now we’ve not achieved anything, but hopefully we’ve put the club back on the map and raised expectations.”

Throughout the interview, Paul made reference to his right-hand-man, Steve Halford.

As a managerial duo, the pair have quibbles, but admittedly, Paul wouldn’t have it any other way. “The relationship between me and Steve can be a bit volatile at times, as we don’t always see eye to eye” he said.

“I don’t agree with him, and he doesn’t agree with me, but I think that’s the way we work and bounce off each other.

“He knows what he’s doing. He’s been in the game longer than myself and had a successful season at Mossley, but we’re a good partnership and long may it continue.”
The pair are not averse to accepting criticism.

In fact, they answer fans questions on a regular basis. Paul said “Whether we win, lose or draw, we will always go into the clubhouse after every game, where fans will come and speak to us about the decisions we’ve made.”

Things are just as transparent behind the scenes.

Paul described his relationship with the board as ‘fantastic’, adding: “We have a liaison officer, Ken Philburn, who’s really built the club up.

“The board try to do everything they can, and that includes Terry Hollis, John Milne, Andy Finnigan, Andy Evans and Jackie Tierney.

“They’ve had a few setbacks with the ongoing pay-outs, but we’ve always managed to pay our players and done everything we can to make it successful.”

While the club has enjoyed a considerable rise up the table in the past few years, the support, unfortunately, has failed to follow suit.

Although the Robins have a loyal contingent of fans – averaging 207 during home fixtures – the town, in general, has shown a lack of interest. Paul lamented: “The crowds have really disappointed us to be honest.

“We got 1,300 in the play-off against Curzon, so it would be a great feat if we could attract half of those back to the club.

“I don’t know what more we can do as a club to attract more people through the gates.
“We’ve got decent ticket prices, play attractive football and have challenged in the play-offs for the past two years.”

It’s easy to identify with Paul on the issue.

What’s not so easy to identify with is the leagues questionable fixture release.

Ashton have been dealt a number of midweek away trips to Whitby, Darlington and Blyth.

These three trips alone account for 776 miles – a problem Paul is rightly concerned about. He said: “I’ve spoke to the board about the fixtures and I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.

“I can’t understand why the league can’t manage it better, because it would be better for the spectators, better for the players and it would give everyone a fighting chance.”

Nonsensical trips aside, the club can at least look forward to some local tasty fixtures – none more so than Hyde on Boxing Day. “I think Hyde will be a massive force this season under Gary Lowe” says Paul.

“He’s brought in a lot of quality players from all levels, and they’ve got brilliant facilities and a top class pitch.

“Gary’s a very strewed man and he’s always been on the other end of the line when I’ve needed information.

“I can’t speak highly enough of him.”

Ashton’s 2015/2016 league campaign began last Saturday with a home tie against freshly promoted Mickleover Sports, drawing 0-0 with the new boys.

The Robins added another point to their tally following a goalless stalemate at Marine on Tuesday.

Has the hangover of last season’s play-off semi-final defeat faded? Paul seems to think so. He concluded: “Me and Steve will never go into a season wanting to accept second best. We will always go into a season striving for the top.”