Nothing amateur about it! WFC are on a professional promotion push

Fri 1st December 2023 | Wythenshawe
By Jay Cooper

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with John Cotton, who is the club secretary for the NWCFL Premier Division league leaders Wythenshawe FC. The last 12-18 months at Hollyhedge Park have been eventful to say the least, and era-defining to be a little more accurate. There have been plenty of changes that have taken place, plenty of goals that have been hit (both on and off the pitch), and, based on their current form in the league and the general trajectory of the club, there might be no slowing down anytime soon for the Ammies.


When they were founded all the way back in 1946, a year after the end of the Second World War, they were known as Wythenshawe Lads Club. This name was appropriate for a side that would immediately join the Manchester Federation of Lads’ Clubs League, but it wouldn’t stick for too long. The players would simply outgrow the age-range for that name to be a mainstay, and, right before the start of the 1950’s, the name Wythenshawe Amateurs was officially bestowed upon the club.

This was a club name that, since their entry into the NWCFL league system in 2018, had become synonymous with challenging for promotion to the Premier Division and giving whoever was around them in the table a real run for their money. This would all pay dividends by the end of, what is at the time of writing, last season, when - despite the very best efforts of Stockport Town, who had been top of the pile in the league for longer than anyone else – the Ammies would crown themselves as NWCFL First Division South Champions with a 4-0 final day victory against Alsager Town.

Ahead of what proved to be a very successful campaign, John said of the clubs’ goals that, “One of our aims is to always improve on the previous season, and, in the 2021/22 season we lost to FC Isle of Man in the play-off semi-finals. In line with our targets, promotion was an initial aim rather than an expectation, but to then win the title on top of that was a bonus.

“We pushed all the way through to the final day simply due to being a focused group, with grit, determination, and a great team spirit. What impressed me was how relaxed we were - we concentrated on our performances and results, rather than that of others. Stockport Town’s form, with the utmost respect, was irrelevant to how we played our matches. We were focusing on our challenges.”

To his and the rest of the club’s credit, this is a mentality that worked out brilliantly. You often hear stories in football that centre around one individual or team being spurred on by competition from another, but, in this case, focusing on what they needed to do was a winning formula for Wythenshawe Amateurs.

Naturally, with winning the league comes promotion, barring anything unforeseen. And nothing unforeseen would come the way of Wythenshawe before their entry into the Premier Division for 2023/24. However, perhaps one change unforeseen to outsiders would be made before the season got underway. For the first time since 1949, there would be a name change to the club. They announced that they would drop the term ‘Amateurs’ from the official club name and would continue as simply Wythenshawe FC, but would continue to be known as ‘the Ammies’ as a nickname.

“Dropping 'Amateurs' from our name was a difficult decision, given the history behind it, but we felt the time was right as we now play in a semi-professional league. That, alongside the fact that, with the evolving English language, the word 'Amateurs' arguably has a more negative connotation than it did in the 1940's, when the club was founded.”

To be fair, John has a point here. Historically, the ‘amateur’ person in a particular context was considered to be the ideal balance between pure intent, open mind, and the interest or passion for a subject; and, if we look at what the word meant in the mid-1900’s, we find definitions including the idea of a ‘Gentleman Amateur - a wealthy man in high social position. These amateurs did not need financial compensation to participate in sport.’

Today, however, the following is an accepted definition of the word that is prominent enough to be featured on mainstream sites including Wikipedia. “Some amateur work may be considered sub-par. For example, amateur athletes in sports such as basketball, baseball, or football are regarded as possessing a lower level of ability than professional athletes.” This is a shame, and, at a very shallow and surface level, could come across as detrimental to the players involved at amateur clubs. Of course, those players and fans know differently.

The name change to the club was made official in June 2023, but that wouldn’t be the only preparation that the club would undertake ahead of their new challenge. Like with all clubs going into a new campaign, regardless of promotion, relegation or non-movement, there would be changes in personnel, tactics and approaches to games. There would also be opportunities to test all of the above out in pre-season friendlies.

“Our pre-season process has worked well over the years, therefore there was no need to radically change it. We played a good number of friendlies against good opponents; our management team, Shane Goldrick, Jake Davies and Mike Turner, identified players who could strengthen our squad. Off the pitch, we are fortunate to have two inspirational leaders in Sacha Lord and Carl Barratt, along with a great board, great sponsors, and great supporters. Our preparation was achievable and sustainable for the season ahead.

“There were mixed expectations going into the new season in the Premier Division. Within the club, some were suggesting and hoping for a play-off place, and some were more expectant of consolidation. Outside the club, some were saying relegation, so anything in between would’ve been a safe expectation. The fixtures gave us a difficult introduction, Ramsbottom United - they were from Step 4, we were from Step 6 - but a 4-0 win coupled quickly with another 4-0 win against Cheadle Town settled the nerves.”

Well, they clearly did something right! To reiterate, that is two consecutive 4-0 wins in their first two games of the new NWCFL Prem season. For those of you keeping track, this means that, at the time of that victory over Cheadle Town, Wythenshawe had managed 3 consecutive 4-0 wins in NWCFL matches, if you include the final day of the 2022/23 season.

Since rebranding themselves and playing in a semi-professional league, as John put it, things have gone quite swimmingly indeed. As mentioned right at the top of this article, they are currently at the top of the table in the Premier Division, just as they were in the First Division South last season, and, like last season, if they are to make it all the way to April in this position, that would mean consecutive promotions.

“Our expectations, whatever they were, have changed. We now expect the unexpected - any team can beat any team. It's somewhat irrelevant that we are now top of the league at this stage. There are 24 teams, and this is a competitive league. It's the Grand National of Step 5, there are still many Becher's Brook's for us to get over between now and the end of the season.

“Of course, we hope to keep the momentum going all the way to April. We will not be complacent, not stand still, and we will improve where improvements are needed. Any perceived setbacks will be addressed and not allowed to be a distraction. Since joining the NWCFL we have been in or around the top spot or the play-offs in our division, and I would like to think that experience will stand us in good stead for the rest of this race.”

It is a race that they will have to be meticulous about running, with competition that includes but is not limited to quick starters Kendal Town; steady improvers Prestwich Heys; fellow consecutive promotion chasers Chadderton; big hitters Bury FC; and even local rivals and perennial also-rans, Wythenshawe Town. From one simple conversation with the club secretary, however, you already get the feeling that Wythenshawe are a team with all the tools to go on and achieve great things. We’re nearly halfway through the season, and it’s almost Christmas – there’s plenty of time for the Ammies to prove themselves yet.

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