Steve Halford “We’ll keep the club up – I guarantee it”
Tuesday 6th September 2016 @ 13:42 by Mark Phillip
Ashton Football Sports Stalybridge

Stalybridge Celtic have appointed former Ashton United joint managers Paul Phillips and Steve Halford as the club’s new management team.

The decision was announced last Friday following the resignation of former manager Liam Watson.

The 45-year-old stepped aside following Celtic’s 3-1 defeat to Gloucester City over the Bank Holiday weekend.

David Sullivan – who’ll take control of the academy from now on – took charge of Celtic for the visit to Chorley on Bank Holiday Monday; a game they subsequently lost 1-0 which marked seven straight league defeats.

The managerial appointment was disclosed by Celtic Chairman Rob Gorski on the clubs official forum, attracting a series of mixed responses from the Celtic faithful.

In a detailed post, Gorski highlighted the reasons behind the appointment. He said: “I am pleased to announce that Paul Phillips and Steve Halford are the new joint managers of Stalybridge Celtic Football Club.

“The club received high quality offers from as far apart as the U.S.A. and Italy with also many high quality local “names” too.

“But Steve and Phillo stood out and their hunger, passion and professionalism meant that the whole board was unanimous in wanting them to join.

“We also welcome Dave Noble and Phil Sherwood who will be our new coaches and scouts.

“The four of them have been a very successful unit at Ashton United and we are delighted that they have signed.”

Fans were given the opportunity to put questions to the new management team and Gorski at a meet the manager’s event on Monday evening.

Lasting just under two hours, the session provided everyone in attendance with a chance to put previous misdemeanours and problems behind them.

Proving to be a hot topic on the evening was an incident which took place in 2011 when Phillips played in goal for local rivals Droylsden against Celtic.

During a game of high emotions, a Celtic fan threw a blue flare onto the pitch which landed next to Phillips.

In return, Phillips threw the flare into a group of Celtic fans which were stood behind the goal.

Although five years have passed since the incident took place, the controversial issue still remains a sore subject for a group Celtic fans.

With this in mind, Gorski invited those with a grudge to lay their feelings bare at the event on Monday evening.

Questioned on the incident, Phillips replied: “I was young and foolish at the time. I fully took the consequences, went to the police station and nearly got a criminal record for it.

“I wouldn’t say it was out of character because I can be a fool.

“I’ve made mistakes since, so I’m not going to say I won’t make a mistake again.

“I can assure you that when I walked off the pitch and spoke to my family and the people who were at the game, there’s no one that gave me a bigger rollicking than them – that’s what hurt the most that day.

“I was a fool and I’ve apologised to certain people in this room.”

Phillips conceded that it will take time to heal the wounds of times gone by, but was determined to make amends with the supporters by doing the business on the pitch. He added: “I apologise for the incident, and I hope I can make it up to you in time.

“We know quite a few of the current squad, and even though you might not think it, there are some lads in that dressing room that have been to big clubs and have done big things.

“I think there are some fraudsters as well, which we’ll dig out in time.”

He continued: “There’s going to be changes, because there’s got to be changes.

“We will lose football matches as a management team and as a football club, and If the players aren’t up for the fight and don’t want to help us get out of this mess, then they’re in the wrong changing room.”

Halford reiterated Phillip’s stance, while also addressing the squads questionable discipline record. “It’s pointless signing a player if he’s suspended for eight games a year” he said.

“There are a few players at Celtic who have been booked 13 times already, and some players are being sent off for daft things.

“These issues will get addressed – it’s as simple as that.”

As we went to press, the managerial duo had signed two players ahead of their first game in charge against Gainsborough Trinity on Tuesday evening.

Experienced defender Jay Gorton joins the club from Ashton United, while forward Danny Wilkins had also made the switch from Hurst Cross.

Despite being a goalkeeper himself, Phillips was quick to suggest that his position will be solely from the dugout this season.

Heaping praise on current shot stopper Tony McMillan, Phillips said: “If half this team had shown as much commitment as the goalkeeper (McMillan), then we wouldn’t be in this position to start with.”

Halford added: “Tony’s done really well, but Paul kept 24 clean sheets last season.

“As you know, he’s a very good goalkeeper, and we only have the one keeper at this moment in time, so if there was a case of something serious happening (to McMillan), then we’d look for another keeper.

“However, if it’s just a minor issue, like a knock, then Paul can do a job without a shadow of a doubt.”

Celtic have been handed an FA Cup 2nd qualifying round trip to Witton Albion on Saturday 17 September.

Despite competing two leagues below Celtic, Halford and Phillips won’t take the tie lightly.

In fact, they went as far as saying that Witton, as a club, are on their way back up the leagues.

Halford said: “Everyone knows the FA Cup means a lot to nonleague fans.

“Financially, it can put a club on the map and attracts more people to watch them.

“The last few years you’ve had Blyth, Warrington and Salford sustain title challenges following a good FA Cup run.

“We’re looking to try and get as far as possible in the competition.”

Phillips added: “It’s a hard draw, and although people say they’re two leagues below us, Witton are a massive club.

“They’ve got a great manager in Carl McCauley, and I don’t think they’ve been defeated this year, so it should be a very tough test.

“We’d like a good cup run, but first and foremost, the league is the priority.

“We want to stay in this league, and we’ll be working around the clock to make sure we do.”

Regarding Celtic’s future in the National League North, Halford went one step further than Phillips, and stated: “We’ll keep the club up, I guarantee it.”

A recording of Monday’s meeting will be featured on the Tameside Radio Friday night sport show from 6pm.