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Celtic sign flurry of players ahead of new season
Thursday 28th June 2018 @ 10:57 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

Stalybridge Celtic has made a flurry of signings ahead of the new season in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.

Manager Simon Haworth, who took the reins in April, has recruited the services of nine players, including defenders Stephen Rigby and Jack Taylor; midfielders Billy Akrigg, Scott Harries, Charlie Duke, Ross Dent, Josh Ramsden and Greg Wilkinson; plus striker Lee Knight.

Arguably the most notable of the signings is Wilkinson, who re-joins for a second spell having previously been a fans’ favourite at Bower Fold. After making 196 appearances for the club, in which he scored 20 goals, Wilkinson is currently ninth on the all-time appearance list.

Meanwhile, Taylor returns to the Fold having been with the club last season, while Dent links up with Haworth after previously playing under him at Clitheroe.

Duke joins from Kidsgrove Athletic, while Akrigg joins from Lancaster City. Rigby is another player who knows Haworth well, having previously worked under him at Clitheroe where he won the Player of the Season.

Knight joins from Bradford Park Avenue, while Harries has previously played for Warrington Town, Lancaster City and Squires Gate.

The following three players are also set to sign on the dotted line at pre-season training tonight (Thursday). These include John Marsden, a striker, from AFC Telford Utd, Glenn Rule from Bala Town, and Callum Spooner from Glossop North End.

Following the signings, Haworth spoke to Celtic’s media team and expressed his delight on his recent captures. He said: “It’s taken about two-and-a-half months, with a lot of phone calls and a lot of running around and a lot of hard work. We were all aware that the majority of last year’s squad would be somewhere else, so we needed to bring a chunk in, and it looks like a hefty amount, but it’s been done over a period of time. I’m made up; there’s a good balance with winners in there and experience in there. There are young players, and the best thing of all is that they’re hungry with a point to prove and hungry for an opportunity for a platform to kick on.”

Ramsden and Taylor have joined the ranks having progressed through the Reserve team. After impressing throughout last season, Haworth said it was only right to give them a fair chance to prove their worth. “Josh and Jack were looking for an opportunity – the reserves are no longer – so they wanted to be given an opportunity in pre-season. That was sort of a no brainer, I wanted to look at them and it’s only fair to give them that opportunity. I know Greg (Wilkinson) from when I was here a long time ago. He’s a good character and he’s a match winner on his day, so it’s important that we get the best out of Greg and I’m pleased to get him back.”

Having built a strong squad at Clitheroe, which delivered two semi-final appearances, Haworth has looked to his former players to help secure the same success. “Ross is an out and out footballer for this level, he’s committed and will spill blood every week” said Haworth. “He was very good for me in terms of setting off and pressing teams with high energy.

“Rigby is more of a project; he can play anywhere on the left side. He played left-back for me at Clitheroe, and he’s a fit lad who didn’t miss a minute for me last season. He must have played 55 or 56 games.

“I feel like he’s a young player on the up. He’s a smashing lad and he’s really hungry to be given an opportunity. I’ve rewarded him for his efforts last season and now he’s got an opportunity in pre-season to make himself a regular in the first team.”

As for John Marsden, who was released by Stockport County in 2017, Haworth said: “He’s has turned down better offers to come here, which is always a good sign. He’s very excited about playing for me and Gaz (Roberts). He thinks we can help his football education and from the conversations we’ve had, we do see the game the same way. We think we can get the best out of him, but only time will tell. If we get the best out of Marsden then he’ll be a lot better than this league, so he’s a hit for us and I’m sure he’ll be a hit with the fans.”