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Football Review 2016
Monday 16th January 2017 @ 16:36 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

Tameside has become renowned for sporting success in recent years – and 2016 was certainly no different!

Thanks in no small part to our army of volunteers, Reporter Sport has been able to provide weekly coverage of a number of sports, ranging from speedway, rugby and cricket, right through to powerlifting, boxing and athletics.

Cheerleading, chess and swimming have also featured regularly, along with fencing, pigeon racing and golf.

However, in what will come as no surprise to regular readers, football has topped the agenda due to the comprehensive coverage that each of our seven teams receive.

Unsurprisingly, Curzon Ashton took the headlines on many occasions throughout the year, not only due to their FA Cup heroics but their outstanding community work as well.

The Nash celebrate their opening goal during the Emirates FA Cup 2nd Round tie between Curzon Ashton FC and AFC Wimbledon at The Tameside Stadium, Ashton -under-Lyne, on Sunday 4 December 2016

While the club’s on-field efforts were rewarded with national TV coverage on the BBC and BT Sport, the work done behind the scenes was also acknowledged.

In a bid to grow the club’s image, Curzon appointed Natalie Atkinson as the CEO in June.

Curzon Ashton CEO Natalie Atkinson

Arriving with big ambitions, Natalie is hoping that Curzon will be a Football League club in five years’ time. At the time of her appointment, she told Reporter Sport: “We are – and want to be – the best club in Tameside for everything we do.

“I’ve got a huge task on my hands, but an exciting one.

““We want to be the biggest club in Tameside with the biggest following.”

Natalie appears to have made an instant impact at the club, as Curzon were crowned ‘Club of the Year’ at the Pride of Tameside Sports Awards in October, before receiving the same title at the Greater Manchester Sports Awards in November.

Natalie (second right) collecting the award from BBC’s Roger Johnson with fellow Curzon staff at the GM Sports Awards.

On the pitch, first team manager John Flanagan has taken the club from being the second lowest ranked side in Tameside to the highest in the space of three seasons.

The former Mossley boss led the Nash to their highest ever league position in May after finishing their first stint in the National League North in 11th place.

Curzon boss John Flanagan

Unfortunately for Curzon supporters, the first half of this season hasn’t been quite so smooth and the club currently find themselves mired in a relegation battle.

However, if Curzon can rediscover the form which propelled them to FA Cup stardom – which ended in bitter disappointment in a dramatic 4-3 loss to AFC Wimbledon in the Second Round in December – then the likelihood of relegation is very slim.

The Nash faithful

Meanwhile, 2016 brought mixed fortunes for Stalybridge Celtic.

Under former manager Liam Watson, Celtic reached the Manchester Premier Cup Final against Mossley – a game they lost 3-1 – and ended the season in 12th position, which marked their highest league finish for four years.

Stalybridge Celtic fans at Doncaster Rovers

However, despite assembling a new-look squad over summer, Watson was unable to hit the ground running and left the club in September, having collected just three points in the opening eight games.

Acting quickly to fill the void, Celtic appointed the Ashton United managerial duo of Paul Phillips and Steve Halford as Watson’s successor.

Paul Phillips during his playing days with Ashton United

The decision received mixed responses from the Celtic faithful – mainly due to a previous altercation involving Phillips during his playing days with Droylsden.

At a ‘meet the managers’ event, which took place shortly after the appointment, Phillips and Halford vowed that they would be ‘working around the clock’ to keep the club in the league.

Regarding Celtic’s future in the National League North, Halford made a bold claim and stated: “We’ll keep the club up, I guarantee it.”

Celtic claim a 3-2 victory over Gainsborough Trinity during Phillips and Halford’s first game in charge.

Although 11 points from safety in the National League North, Celtic have grounds for optimism after claiming a 1-0 victory in their first game of 2017 against play-off chasing Halifax Town.

Phillips and Halford will also be looking to guide the club to their second consecutive appearance in the Manchester Premier Cup Final.

However, in order to do so, they will need to overcome a stern test against an in-form Salford City in the semi-final (date to be confirmed).

In a strange way, Ashton United’s year was shaped by the events occurring at Stalybridge Celtic.

Under Phillips and Halford, the Robins’ reached the Evo-Stik Premier playoffs for a third consecutive season, but were unable to reach the final after falling 3-1 to Salford City in the penultimate stage.

In typical fashion, Ashton bounced back from the playoff heartache and hit the ground running at the start of this season.

Momentum was temporarily disrupted when Phillips and Halford left the club to join Celtic, allowing the experienced Jody Banim and Will Haining to fill the void.

Will Haining (left) and Jody Banim

Despite dealing with an incredible level of upheaval – which includes no less than eight players leaving for Celtic in the space of three months –the duo have coped extremely well.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Robins’ could feature in the playoffs come the end of the season.

Elsewhere, Glossop have hit the ground running in the Evo-Stik Division One North.

Surrey Street – home of Glossop North End

Beaten in the play-off semi-final by Northwich Victoria in May, the Hillmen have responded incredibly well and are perfectly suited to make an assault on the title this season.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for our three other sides – Droylsden, Mossley and Hyde United – who have struggled this season.

In terms of success on a club level, Mossley had a fruitful 2016.

Mossley retained the Manchester Premier Cup for the second year after beating Stalybridge Celtic 3-1

Under joint-managers Peter Band and Lloyd Morrison, the Lilywhites retained the Manchester Premier Cup for a second consecutive season and finished 13th in the league.

This season has been quite the opposite.

In fact, Mossley have been eliminated from every cup competition – including the Manchester Premier Cup – and also face the prospect of a nervy end to the season.

Meanwhile, Hyde United have suffered a dismal few years – and 2016 was no exception!

Hyde United manager Darren Kelly

The Tigers were unable to stave off a third consecutive relegation despite Darren Kelly’s best attempts at the end of the season following Gary Lowe’s departure.

Having briefly left the club a short time after, the 37-year-old returned for another stab over summer.

Upon returning to the club, Kelly outlined his reasons for doing so and told Reporter Sport: ““Hyde’s a sleeping giant with a background of fantastic people at the club – Mark Worthington, Pete Ainger, Mike Davies, Daz Mellor, Tony Spencer – who make Hyde a big part of their lives.

“I couldn’t help but want to come back and set out what I planned to do.”

Despite starting in August high on confidence, Hyde’s chances of reaching the playoffs are pretty much non-existent this season.

While on-field matters could be better, things seem fairly positive behind the scenes with new CEO Mark Worthington detailing his optimism surrounding the clubs future.

Upon adopting the role in November, Mark spoke to Reporter Sport and praised the way in which the £400,000 investment at Ewen Fields – which includes a state-of-the-art synthetic surface – has broadened the clubs horizons.

Tameside United FC

Reflecting on the formation of a ladies team – Tameside United – Mark said: ““The response has been fantastic really.

““The girls have been a revelation in the academy, and we’re really pleased with the standard of what they’re producing.

“A lot of Hyde fans have embraced it and been surprised and pleased at the standard of football on offer.”

Hyde have just raised the £15,000 needed to continue their community development work, which includes walking football for the over 50s, Girls and Ladies football, community development in partnership with the local Mosque, disability football, and partnerships with local primary and secondary schools.

Droylsden are similar to Hyde in many respects.

The Butchers Arms – home of Droylsden FC

The Bloods’, having finished last season in 19th spot, will have been hoping for a much better campaign this time around.

Expectations just haven’t materialised though.

Unable to fill the boots of leading scorer Steve Lewis , who left the club to join Rhyl in November, Dave Pace’s side look destined for a mid-table finish in four months’ time.