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The Non-League Football Paper

Steve Burr hopes to channel Southport frustration and inspire great escape at Stalybridge Celtic

I WAS half joking when I accused Steve Burr of forgetting to actually look at the National League North table before agreeing to take over at doomed Stalybridge Celtic a few months ago.

Turns out it wasn’t that far from the truth after all.

“I’ve decided to not even look at the table at all,” said Burr, rated by many as one of Non-League best bosses.

“Genuinely I can’t tell you how many points we’ve got or how far we are away from the teams around us. It seemed a bit pointless to do that when I arrived so my theory is that just because things are looking a bit better that I’m not going to start. Are we close to the safety? I have genuinely no idea. But I like it like this. Maybe I’ll start looking at it if we keep on winning.”

Burr was on a high from an emotional rollercoaster. He had effectively just ended the title dream of a club which are still in his heart.

“Kidderminster are a fantastic club and as much as we wanted to win the game I felt for them because they have had an incredible season,” Burr added.

“You wouldn’t have tipped them to be so close to the top of the table all season long after suffering relegation last year. I spoke to Colin Gordon, the owner, and I said what an incredible season they have had.

“I really hope they get promoted because that club deserves to be in the Football League. I’d love to see them back there before too long.”

You would understand if Burr had lost his zest for football after his experiences at Southport. He’s now a certified and paid up member of the Charlie Clapham Club, having become the latest manager to be sacked by the ruthless Sandgrounders chairman, whose fault it never seems to be.

“Every club I have ever left has always been on good terms regardless of the reason but the whole Southport situation disappointed me, it left a bitter taste in my mouth,” Burr adds.

“My problem is I’m a football person through and through. I really don’t like not being involved on a Saturday afternoon – it makes me sad to know there will be no football in a few weeks time!

Mincemeat

“Maybe I thought ‘better in the game than not in the game’ and went for it, but I’m stronger for the experience and hopefully I’m channelling that frustration in the right way at Stalybridge.”

He’s doing that alright. Celtic were dead and buried when he took over. Not only have Stalybridge beaten second-place Kidderminster, but they also made mincemeat out of leaders AFC Fylde the week before.

That 2-1 win for a side with probably about a tenth of the budget illustrated the improvement although they are still outsiders to stay up with most new betting sites.

The only reason a manager of his credibility didn’t laugh down the phone when the subject came up of taking over was the fact he and chairman Rob Gorski are long- term friends.

“I knew there were some really good people at the club, some from when I was manager before,” he said.

“When I agreed to come back there was only one thing in mind. I knew we were struggling badly, so the objective was to get smiles back on faces and see where it took us. It’s taken us to great wins over the best two teams! I don’t think anyone could have predicted that a month or so ago.”

The question is, can Burr now pull off the ultimate great escape after being 12 points off safety when he took over in February?

“I would answer that but I don’t look at the tables, remember?” he smiled. “I don’t know how much we’ve got left to do. All we can do is win win win – if we do that we’ve got every chance.”

*This article first appeared in the Non-League Paper

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