Local football report: Wolves hoping SML boost will spark return to the good old days

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WOLVERTON Town boss Chris Pottinger is a man under pressure – because he has been charged with the unenviable task of returning the club to its former glory.

After having to take a couple of months off at the back end of last season due to work commitments, the 31-year-old has been reappointed into arguably the most challenging manager’s job in the city.

Having already led Wolves in two North Bucks & District League Premier Division campaigns, Pottinger will take his side into the South Midlands League next season after the club was allowed promotion on the back of significant improvements being completed at The New Park ground they have called home for the last 12 months.

The club were given a £169,000 grant by Milton Keynes Council last year – and a slightly more modest £7,000 by Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council – to improve the facilities at the old Field Lane home of the city’s namesake rugby union club.

That money has significantly changed the face of a club hoping to return to its best days of the 1970s and 80s when, led by Bob Swann – or Mr Wolves – the side achieved notable success as the leading team in the area.

Now with major work on the New Park clubhouse and main pitch completed, Wolverton are well placed to rise back up the leagues – provided Pottinger can build a team capable of playing in SML Division Two and maybe one day higher.

After ‘getting rid of a few bad eggs’ in his first year at the helm, the man himself says the potential is there for the club to climb the divisions once more, albeit slowly, with floodlights needing to be installed before he can even start thinking about Division One football.

He didn’t hold back about his opinion of the team he first inherited, but says things have changed a lot in the last 24 months or so – to the extent that Wolves will play host to an MK Dons XI in something of a one-year anniversary match at the New Park on July 25.

“We were run like a Sunday League side,” he said. “The players just wanted to turn up, play football, and go down the pub.

“I probably changed 90 per cent of the team and we’re a lot more professional in our approach now. And the facilities we’ve got are fantastic. Wolverton is a great club to play for again.

“But we need to attract new players with South Midlands League experience to have a chance of competing next season. We’re back for pre-season training already and some of the players we previously lost are coming back, so at the moment things are looking good.”

While the club’s most senior team will be playing at SML level, the club will continue to field two teams in the North Bucks under the names Wolverton Town Reserves and Wolverton ‘A’ – much like cross-city rivals MK Wanderers do as they aim to make the best possible use of their new ground.

Life at the New Park is a far cry from the days of playing home matches at Radcliffe School, but Pottinger isn’t just happy to be there – he wants his team to hold their own in Division Two, and not ‘do a Wanderers’ in light of the Kents Hill club struggling in that league for the last two years.

Pottinger describes himself as a very enthusiastic coach, epitomised by the fact that he travelled all the way to the USA to spend a summer learning about the game with staff of a professional club based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He’s not the most experienced manager on the scene, but at Wolverton Town he is going to get the chance to make a name for himself in the area, provided he can match the expectations of his employers.

Call the boss on 07531 723434 if you think you’re capable of leading Wolves to better things on the pitch.

stony stratford town

Following the departure of Steve Orchard to Buckingham Town, Stony chairman Phil Smith was quick off the mark to sign up a replacement manager in James Cain from stricken Bletchley Town.

Smith was disappointed with the club’s showing in South Midlands League Division One last season, with both the first team and Reserves suffering many management and player changes.

“Having joined Stony nine months ago, it’s now time to act and start focusing on the issues which really count for the club, and new blood was essential,” said Smith.

“James joins the club with limited management experience, but he has a strong team behind him, plus he is very ambitious and committed to making a real success of Stony.”

The man in question said: “I’m really looking forward to the challenge and want to thank the chairman for the faith he has put in me. I will attract new players and bring success back to this club.”

mk wanderers

Terry Hill has been appointed as the new boss of South Midlands League Division Two perennial strugglers MK Wanderers.

Wanderers’ first team have barely won a handful of league games in the last two seasons, giving Hill an extremely difficult job. But the good news is, things can only get better, and he insists they will not make it a hat-trick of bottom place finishes with him at the helm.

However, his task isn’t being helped by some in-house political wrangling between himself and Wanderers’ two other senior team managers, both fielding sides in the North Bucks League.

Hill – the cousin of Woking and former Rushden & Diamonds boss Garry – said he wants to see better cohesion between the trio when it comes to picking the best side possible for his SML outfit. Wanderers ‘A’ won the North Bucks Premier Division title last season, and Hill believes some of that team should be making the step up to his squad, but he doesn’t expect that to be an opinion shared by his colleagues.

Hill also makes the point that, as one of the most successful clubs at junior level in Milton Keynes, Wanderers should be able to put a much better first team together, but for various reasons, the club’s top players often end up leaving.

“This year will be different,” he said. “We are going to have a new manager in charge, a new team, and a new methodology in our approach to the campaign.

“This place was a shambles when I first got involved. I’ve been clearing the decks and bringing in new players who I think will take us forward.

“The door is open to both old and new players – and all will be judged equally on their technical skills, discipline and hunger to give 110 per cent for the club and its management.

“The senior side will be the pinnacle of all the club’s sides which start through all ages and stages at youth level.

“The club offers support, facilities and can fulfil the needs of a player who wants to play amateur football at a reasonable level.

“I’m going to change things here and can assure you that we will not finish bottom of the league for a third time.”

new bradwell st peter

New Bradwell St Peter manager Simon Jay is putting his faith in youth as he hopes to improve on the club’s mid-table finish of last season.

Jay took over from Gary Flinn as first team boss mid-way through the 2011/12 campaign, being promoted up through the ranks after successful spells in charge of both the Reserve team and U18s over the last three years.

With an experienced assistant manager in Jimmy Stoyles and club coach in Jackie Bushell, Jay thinks Peters’ youngsters have the enthusiasm and ability to push the side up the South Midlands League Division One table next term.

Jay led the U18s team to the Southern Counties Youth Floodlit League title in 2010, so knows more than most about getting the best out of promising young players.

The club did not continue with the U18s team last season, though it will be returning for the new campaign under the guidance of Darren Turner and Dan Hassell. And Jay is hoping that some members of that side, and the Reserve team, will be able to make the step up to play with his squad.

But he’s also on the lookout for some experienced old heads to help the juniors in their progression, and is encouraging anyone interested to give him a call on 07795 545849.

old bradwell united

At 32 Sean Dolan is one of the youngest South Midlands League managers around, but that works perfectly in Old Bradwell’s new philosophy of giving the city’s young footballers their chance to play a decent standard of football.

Dolan is nearing the start of his second season as first team boss after a lengthy spell with the Old Bradwell Reserves. And he’s using hot-shot striker Adam Mills as an example of the type of player he wants to recruit to help the team build on their fine form at the end of the last campaign.

Mills is just 17 but is already holding his own in a Division Two full of men twice his age, and manager Dolan wants to attract similar talented youngsters to the club, to help them develop, and also help United to improve on last season’s eighth place.

That might not sound like a particularly good finish, but in the context of a superb end to the season that saw them lose just twice in 14 games, it was.

But Dolan wants even better next time round and is inviting those coming to the end of their career in youth football to get in touch on 07927 387889 and see if Old Bradwell is the club for them.

olney town

Olney Town boss Neil Griffiths says he’s learned a lot from last season’s somewhat disappointing seventh place finish in the United Counties League Division One, and is hoping to put a squad together capable of challenging at the top again.

With two full seasons in charge now under his belt, Griffiths is hoping to make it third time lucky when it comes to battling it out for the league title, having seen his side slip away towards the end of the last two campaigns after promising starts.

Despite picking up one more point last season than they did in 2010/11, Olney actually finished three places lower in a very competitive Division One.

The club has plans to play UCL Premier football in the future, and the pressure will be on Griffiths to match expectations on the pitch with those off it. To do that he’s looking for a more committed squad than he had last season, having used no less than 56 players in his first team.

However, with the backbone of his team already confirming their plans to stay on with the Nurserymen – including Stewart Allan, Jared Cunniff, James Fletcher and Sam Parrish – Griffiths thinks he has the basis of a very good side at his disposal.

Now he’s just looking to unearth one or two hidden gems who might add that extra bit of quality needed for a title push – and quality rather than quantity is going to be required in a division that is looking even stronger next season with the arrival of AFC Rushden & Diamonds.

If you stand out from the crowd, Griffiths wants to hear from you on 07940 208491.