Wilkes is still hurting...

Thu 18th July 2019 | Northwich Victoria
By Craig Kendall

Steve Wilkes is coming up to his second anniversary with Northwich Victoria after taking over the reins back in September 2017. With well over 1,000 managerial games under his belt, Wilkes is regarded as one of the finest in the business.

In March, he saw his side just moments away from Wembley as they lost their FA Vase Semi-Final match on penalties to Chertsey Town 5-3, and still to this day, he is still feeling it, "It still hurts to this day, if I'm being honest. When you're one kick away from Wembley but, it's like I said at the time when I was interviewed, I was completely numb after the game but I did say when we sit down in the summer and reflect from when I took over nearly two years ago and were second-bottom in the  League. We were getting 80 people watching us at Warrington to being one kick away from Wembley. We had 1700 for the semi-final at home.  It just shows what a good season we had last year.  People will say you can go one step further next year but it's not that easy.


"Yes, reflecting on last season, a fantastic season for the club both on and off the pitch.  By that, I mean the fanbase that came back to watch Northwich Victoria.  I thought that was brilliant."
Finishing fourth last season was a great achievement for the club and Wilkes feels promotion is realistic, "I think it's realistic for quite a few clubs.  I think what you'll find this season is that a few teams will throw a bit of money at it early doors to try and be in the mix.  With three going up it's a fantastic opportunity to get Northwich back into the Bet Victor League, to get back up to - in my eyes - where they belong.  I'm sure every other team will be thinking exactly the same, that this is the best opportunity that any North West Counties club has had!"
"This is my twenty-second season as a Manager. Twenty of them have been in the  North West Counties; the other two were in the Unibond with Padiham.  I think a lot of teams will think that they've got a really good chance of getting promoted this season."
Reflecting on why Wilkes initially took the role at Northwich, "It's quite well-documented why I left Padiham.  That was me done with football.  I had an offer within two weeks of two jobs in the North West Counties.  I turned them both down because I didn't want to be involved with football anymore.  Three weeks later, you get a phone call from the Chairman at Northwich Victoria asking you if you're interested in the job and it's a completely different scenario.
"Myself and my assistant, Steve Pickup, went down for the interview and straight away I knew it was the football club for me, with the welcome that the people gave us when we turned up.  There's no pressure on me at all.  It's a fan-run club now.  Off the pitch, they've made so many strides.  We're playing at the best ground in the League, which is Witton Albion.  The only pressure that will be on me is what I put on myself, to make sure I've got one of the best three teams in the League next year."
With three promotion places up for grabs, Wilkes agrees that it will probably be the most competitive NWCFL ever, "Oh, absolutely!  I think teams will throw money at it early doors.  Usually, you find that teams at our level drop their wage billcome October-time but now they won't be able to do that because they'll be still in the mix.  It's going to be very,  very competitive.
"I think there'll probably be half a dozen teams that will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season that will be pushing for it.  I'm not sure what Rylands and Longridge Town are like because we hadn't played them last season but it's going to be very competitive.
"We've got a really tough start with Congleton and Whitchurch at home first, then Runcorn and I'm sure those teams will be up there come to the end of the season.
"It's funny, we were talking about this with my coaching staff last night [fixtures].  We've got a tough December but they're all tough at this level.  You don't get any easy games.  It's not a case of you can look at the fixtures and see we're playing them, them and them and you think that's three games you're going to win.  It doesn't happen at this level.  If you're not at your mettle and your players don't turn up, you're in for a tough game every week.
"Your Bootles, Congletons, Runcorn Towns... I'm sure they'll be in the mix come the end of the season so, whenever you're going to play them, it's going to be tough.  We've got a local derby on Boxing Day and Easter Monday, which should be nice so, yes, looking forward to it!
"I can't wait for the season to start.  We've lost three players in the summer but we've recruited quite well.  Fingers crossed, we can get off to a good start and hopefully have a good season."

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