Ashton boss Jody Banim has sights set on promotion
Monday 21st August 2017 @ 15:35 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

Ashton United manager Jody Banim is relishing the prospect of guiding the club to promotion in the Evo-Stik Premier Division this season.

The 39-year-old will be taking sole responsibility of the first team following Will Haining’s decision to step aside as assistant manager in May.

Despite taking the job under difficult circumstances in September, Banim and Haining not only steered the club to an impressive mid-table finish, but they also helped the side to a quarterfinal appearance in the League Cup.

Jack Dyche has signed on a 6 month loan from Scunthorpe United

Reflecting on last season, Banim said he wasn’t nervous upon taking the job, although he did admit to being a little apprehensive about entering what he described as ‘the unknown’.

Speaking to Reporter Sport ahead of the 1-1 draw against Farsley Celtic at Hurst Cross last week, Banim said: “It wasn’t something I was planning for, so it was thrust upon us both at the last minute, but we both really enjoyed our time last season.

“There were difficult times at the start of the role as we lost six players straight away to Stalybridge.

“Obviously we had our own ideas as to how we wanted the team to play and how we could get the best out of the team.

“It was ups and downs, peaks and troughs, but we finished quite well towards the end of the season”.

Despite inheriting a depleted squad following Paul Phillips and Steve Halford’s departure to Stalybridge Celtic – a string of players swiftly followed the managerial duo to Bower Fold – Banim said the objective was to guide Ashton to a fourth consecutive playoff feat. He added: “Any club I’ve ever been to, I’ve wanted to do the best that I possibly can – that’s potentially winning the league or getting promotion via the playoffs.

Ashton’s captain, Mark Lees, scored a last minute winner against Grantham Town on Saturday

“That’s how we approached it last year; we aimed for the playoffs, as whacky as that would probably sound, given the situation we were left with.

“Towards the end of the season we finished with a decent run. I think with the last 12 games at home, we won ten, lost one and drew one, so our home form was very good, and the away form tended to pick up as well, so we were finding towards the end of the season the nucleus of a side that would fit our expectations going forward”.

Despite harbouring forward-thinking intentions, Banim was dealt a huge blow after being told of Haining’s intentions to step aside.

Naturally disappointed with the announcement, Banim tried his best to persuade Haining to stay. He said: “We got on well in the changing room, as we were two of the oldest players so we naturally gravitated towards each other.

“We had similar outlooks on the way we saw the game, so that kind of blended well together, and it was a good partnership towards the end.

“It was very rare that we had differing opinions on the way we wanted the team to play, or on certain players, so it was very disappointing when he told me he wanted to move on.

“He told me with about three games to go that he wanted to jack it in. He’s had a long playing career, and coupled together with the managerial role, work life and home life, he said he wanted to take some time out.

“Naturally I was disappointed because I wanted him to stay on, and I made him aware of that.

“I told him to take some time to think, and he did do, but he came back and his decision was still the same, so I had to respect that and I wish him well”.

If Haining’s decision was hard to digest, news that Ryan Crowther will be out for the entire season must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

The striker sustained a serious knee injury during the 1-1 draw at Radcliffe Borough during the pre-season schedule, leaving him side-lined for the entire campaign.

Banim described the injury as a ‘massive blow’, adding: “Him and Matty Chadwick were unplayable at times last year, contributing a lot of goals.

“They probably could have contributed 60 goals between them this season”.

The squad has been furthered weakened by injuries sustained to defender Tom Eckersley, who will be out for six weeks with a torn hamstring, as well as Alex Johnson, who is expected to be out for month.

The most recent victim to the Hurst Cross curse is striker Josh Stachini, who sustained a serious looking injury in the 1-1 draw with Farsley last week.

However, in what will be light relief for Banim, the injury isn’t as bad as first predicted, and Stachini will only miss a month of action.

Other players to have signed over summer and subsequently avoided the curse include goalkeeper Dave Carnell, and defender Aaron Chalmers.

Of Carnell, Banim said the singing is a ‘huge coup for the club’, adding: “Stalybridge Celtic were in for him, along with a couple of other clubs as well.

“Coming from FC United, he’s been there and done it in non-league and the local area too.

“He’s won promotions which is important; he’s a big presence in the dressing room; he’s a good talker; he’s good with his feet and he’s a very good shot stopper as well, so it’s a really good addition for us.

“It was a problem area for us, because we had Luke Pilling on-loan from Tranmere Rovers last season, but we knew we weren’t going to get him back this season, so to bring someone like Dave in is a big coup for the club”.

As for Chalmers, who made the switch from Stalybridge Celtic over summer, Banim said: “He reads the game very well; he’s good in the air; distribution is good; lacks a bit of concentration at times which we can improve, but the way we want to play – we want to get the ball down and play from the back –bringing someone like Aaron in suits our system of play”.

Matt Chadwick will be hoping to score the goals as he did last season

Banim is no stranger to non-league football and the importance of a good cup run.

In fact, he became one of the most recognisable and sought after players during a glittering career with numerous clubs, including Droylsden, Hyde United, Stalybridge Celtic and Altrincham.

However, Banim came to prominence with Radcliffe Borough in 2003, setting a national record after scoring in 14 consecutive matches.

The former Accrington Stanley player will undoubtedly be hoping to utilise this experience when his side begin their FA Cup campaign at Marine on Saturday, September 2.

Detailing the importance of a good cup run, Banim said: “For me, personally, it’s great to be involved in an FA Cup run, and it’s also great for the lads as you get to play against some teams from higher levels, but aside from that it’s massive for the football club.

“It can give a lot of exposure to the club, but first and foremost it will put some money in the coffers which is important for clubs at our level – especially one as small as ours”.

While many sides will be hoping to draw a club like Manchester United or Liverpool in the third round proper, Banim is slightly different.

In fact, if Ashton do reach that stage of the competition, Banim is hoping that, in order to progress further, his side will pull out another non-league side.

However, FA Cup romance aside, Banim’s main priority is the league this season.

Predicting who will be challenging for promotion next May, Banim said: “I expect Altrincham, Stourbridge, Workington, and Nantwich – all the teams that have been up there for the past couple of years.

“I also think Stalybridge will be in or around the playoff places”.

Ashton claimed a last minute winner against Grantham Town on Saturday thanks to captain, Mark Lees.

They will be hoping to build on this victory in their next league fixture at Warrington Town on Tuesday.

Pictures: Eddie Leach