By John Lyons
Positive Altrincham boss Phil Parkinson wants to establish the club in National League North in the coming season – and then plan for a full-time future.
After successive relegations saw the Robins plummet from the National League to Step 3 of the Non-League Pyramid, Parkinson was the man tasked with the job of turning the ship around a year ago.
He did it at the first time of asking in impressive style – Alty bagged a whopping 95 points to win the Evo-Stik NPL Premier by an impressive 13-point margin, scoring a net-busting 101 goals along the way.
It means Altrincham, famous for their FA Cup giant-killings down the years, are back at Step 2 this coming season – and desperate to put behind them a horrendous 2016-17 campaign which saw them finish rock-bottom with just 21 points.
Former Nantwich Town manager Parkinson said: “Last season I knew it was all about promotion, but this season will be a completely different animal. We are going to play against some huge clubs, ex-Football League clubs.
“We are still a big club with the history we have, but the previous two seasons showed we have had a difficult time at those levels. It’s about steadying the ship, but we aren’t there to just make the numbers up.
“We have ambition to play in the top half of the table and hopefully continue the momentum we have as champions. We have retained 15 of the lads and we could be a surprise package, but I’m not going to say we are going to win it or get into the play-offs.
“That would be wrong because there are a lot of full-time sides and we are not full-time. It’s a season of transition to see where we fit in and it would be ridiculous to give our fans false hope, but it wouldn’t be unheard of either with the momentum we have.”
Assuming things go as well as Parkinson and the Altrincham hierarchy would like in the coming campaign, the club could then be at a crossroads.
“The following season we have to decide what type of club we want to be – full-time or part-time,” explained Parkinson. “That’s something the club is talking about.
“I have certainly got aspirations of that and I think the club want to do that with me and my management team. A lot of my players will want that as well.
“A club like Altrincham should be in the National League and that’s what we have to aim for, but it’s up to the club to decide if it’s right to go full-time. We need to do it correctly if we want to do it and see if it’s sustainable for Altrincham.”
As Parkinson and his assistant Neil Sorvel prepare for life in National League North, they’ve raided one of their promotion rivals from last season, Warrington Town, to bring in a couple of fresh faces.
Goalscoring midfielder Sean Williams, 26, returns for a second spell at Moss Lane, while centre-half Liam Goulding, 22, has also made the switch.
“That will take us to 17 players and I would probably like to bring a keeper in to add a bit of competition,” said Parkinson. “That’s going to be key for us.
“I like to reward success and maintain continuity. Others who win leagues sometimes shed eight or nine players, but I believe the lads deserve the opportunity to prove themselves and it’s up to them to deliver. Everyone is going to have to over-perform if we’re going to do something.
“It would have been wrong for me to have taken the chance away from the players who got us up. I signed them with one eye on promotion and playing in the league above.”
While some people may have thought twice about taking on an Altrincham side on a downward spiral, Parkinson, a sports science lecturer by day, had no such qualms.
“I believe in myself and the management team around me,” he added. “Unless there were things under the surface which I wasn’t aware of, I really believed we would do well and win the league, for the level we were at and the players we brought in.
“I didn’t hide my ambition last year. I knew why I was here – to get the club promoted. I got a bit of criticism from other managers. They said you should undersell and overdeliver, but I don’t believe in smokescreens.”
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday
For all the latest news, interviews, features and match reports from Steps 1 to 6, with exclusive access and behind the scenes news from your club throughout the summer, become a subscriber to The Non-League Paper, here: http://bit.ly/NLP-Sub