By Matt Badcock
Steve Burr is ready to kickstart Stafford Rangers – the club who helped launch his career as a player.
This summer, the former Kidderminster Harriers and Chester manager returned to the club where it all began as an 18-year-old when he joined from Atherstone United.
Rangers were one of Non-League’s big guns back then in the early 80s and despite reaching the Conference Premier a little more than ten years’ ago, are still striving for a return.
Burr wants to help the Evo-Stik Premier club, who kick-off on Saturday at Workington, do just that. And he remembers his first day as an up-and-coming goalscorer.
“They were a massive club – Stafford, Altrincham, Kettering along with Telford were probably the biggest Non-League names in the country at the time,” says the 58-year-old. “I remember as a young kid walking through the corridor at Stafford and seeing all the pictures of the Wembley team and thinking, ‘This is a proper football club!’
“Now it’s about getting them back on track. I know what the fans want there. They want to see them back at the highest point. It’s not as easy as saying it, because you’re competing against clubs with decent budgets and ours has been cut slightly from last season – which they told me about before I took the job.
“But I’m really pleased with the players I’ve got because it shows how much of a pull Stafford is for players to come and play here.
“Players have jobs but I know money is important to lads for paying mortgages, cars and stuff like that. But the club itself is still a pull because, I know if we get it right, we’ll be getting over 1,000 through the gates. If we can do that it will help towards the budget to maybe kick on again.”
Budgets are slightly different these days. Burr recalls going from £10-a-week at Atherstone to £35-a-week at Stafford after impressing and scoring on trial against Kettering in a Midland Floodlit game.
“I scored and straight after the game they wanted to sign me and put me on a contract,” Burr, who was signed by Paul Ogden, says. “It was something like £35 and an extra £20 if I played and scored. From being at Atherstone on £10-a-week I was like, ‘Blimey, this is great!’
“I was only playing West Midlands League football for the likes of Lichfield and then I went to Atherstone.
“Atherstone offered me £10 a game and £5 for a goal. In my first game I scored a hat-trick. In the second we played a team called Causeway, we won 4-0 and I scored all four in that! The guys came to me, I’ll never forget it, and said, ‘Sorry, we can’t afford to pay you – you’re scoring too many goals!’”
From Stafford, Burr went onto Macclesfield Town and Hednesford before Rangers forked out £6,000 for a then 35-year-old Burr who enjoyed a second stint under boss Dennis Booth.
And he’s happy with how the summer squad building has gone as the club to look to blend players from last season with a new crop.
“I saw it’s a tough league from the spell last season back at Stalybridge but I feel I’ve got some good lads,” Burr says.
“I’ve got my old skipper from Kiddy, Luke Jones, I’ve brought Tom Marshall in who had a spell with me at Kiddy.
“Kyle Perry is still there and I’m looking forward to working him because he’s always been a handful against me. I feel if I can get the right lads in and around him, there’s still a lot more in Kyle. He’s a great, great experience around the place like Joner and Tom Marshall.
“In that respect, there’s a good blend. We’ve got one or two lads out of the U18s who are doing well.
“From last season we’ve got Adam Whitehouse, the keeper, we’ve got Jack Sherratt, a young lad we want to help get back in the Football League, but really it’s a brand new squad.
“I’m looking forward to it – I was taken aback by the amount of people at my press conference. I did well for them as a player and I want to make sure I do well as a manager because you can quickly lose a status of being popular when you’re not winning matches.
“I know the fans will rally around and back the club if we get a good side playing attractive football and winning, which is what counts.”