David Sullivan “I’ve worked with a few different colleges over the past few years and I couldn’t be happier with the current partnership”
Friday 23rd June 2017 @ 09:48 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

While things didn’t go according to plan for Stalybridge Celtic’s first team last season, the Academy squad had reason to cheer after winning the league.

Managed by David Sullivan, Celtic claimed the title on the final day of the season with a 2-0 victory at Chorley FC.

Such was the quality within the squad, of their 14 league fixtures last season, Celtic won nine, drew three and lost two.

What’s more, Celtic produced the best stats in the league, scoring 48 and conceding just 19.

According to Sullivan, who took charge of the academy 12 months ago, Celtic’s success is well deserved and provides a solid foundation for the future.

Speaking to Reporter Sport earlier this week, Sullivan said winning the league was a rewarding experience for the lads involved: “I think on reflection, given the way they conducted themselves off the pitch throughout last season, they deserved the success on the field as well” said Sullivan.

Despite being in charge of the Academy for a relatively short period, Sullivan has cultivated a winning mentality.

He owes this success, in part, to a number of colleagues and committed players.

Reflecting on a memorable 12 months, Sullivan said: “I took the role in June last year, and to be honest if it wasn’t for the help of Mike Smith, community development officer, and Ian Milligan, CEO, then i would have faced an uphill battle.

“We managed to recruit 23 people inside a month – good recruits at that – and we started the year with 33 and finished with 33.”

Sullivan has a close connection with the club and its supporters, having coached the first team for just under three years and spending eight months as Liam Watson’s assistant.

During that period, Sullivan helped guide the club to the FA Cup First Round at Doncaster Rovers, before concluding the season with a Manchester Premier Cup Final appearance against Mossley.

Despite the club’s woes last season, Sullivan believes the leadership behind the scenes is something to be proud of: “They’re very forward thinking and that comes from the top down” said Sullivan, referring to the club hierarchy.

“We have Michael Beech, who’s the general manager, and Mike Smith has been a big help in the admin side of things, providing me with community contacts.

“There’s very much a sense of togetherness about it, and we seem like we’ve got a forward thinking five year plan.”

Sullivan is referring to the long-term partnership established with Tameside College, whereby players who join the Academy will divide their time between playing football and academic study.

Launched in March 2016, the Academy provides a progression route in football supported with sports qualification that leads to university.

Sullivan said the partnership was strong, while adding: “We’re in it together, so if someone does fall behind in one part of their work then they obviously don’t get to play in the games.

“I’ve worked with a few different colleges over the past few years and I couldn’t be happier with the current partnership.

“They are very hands-on with what they do, they’re interested in your opinions and they want to improve the product as much as we do, so in terms of the partnership I couldn’t see it being any better with anybody else.”

Celtic have a great record of producing quality players.

Notable faces include Connor Jennings, who scored for Tranmere in the playoff final loss to Forest Green Rovers at Wembley in May, as well as Oldham’s Darius Osei.

In a bid to ease the strain on the first team playing budget, Sullivan is hoping to produce more in the near future.

Commenting on the relationship between himself and manager Steve Burr, Sullivan said: “I’m in contact with Steve, although I wouldn’t say regularly at the moment because I think he’s got a few other people to be speaking to rather than me, but we’ve had a couple of meetings and he knows exactly what the academy is about and he’s keen to get involved with it.

“As well as Steve there’s Keith Briggs who I’m good mates with, and he’s always keeping tabs on me and asking questions about the academy players.

“Stalybridge has a longstanding history of producing players and doing really well, and we want to keep that up, but on the other side it helps the management out.

“If the manager only has X amount of pounds to spend on the budget, but he’s got an Academy player who’s going to cost him next to nothing and is a real good prospect, then it helps everybody out.”

Burr and Briggs are set to attend the next Academy open evening at Stockport Sports Village on Friday, June 30.

Anticipating a big turnout, Sullivan is hoping to identify a number of key attributes which he believes make a quality player. “Attitude is number one and always will be” Said Sullivan.

“Obviously the player needs ability, because you need something to build on, whether that’s just power, pace and strength from a fundamental point of view.

“You can also look at their technical ability and get them to synthesise games.

“It’s not my job to put a team out there to go and win the league; it’s my job to go and produce an academy player that can play in the first team.

“That means playing them in a number of different styles, whether that’s direct or playing out from the back.

“They have different roles and responsibilities, and they understand that.”

To register your interest for the forthcoming trial, email: [email protected]

You can hear a full interview with Sullivan here: