An enjoyable journey for Cleator Moor Celtic
Thu 17th January 2019 | Cleator Moor Celtic | By Ian Templeman
Cleator Moor Celtic Secretary Herbie Briggs says that everyone at the club is enjoying the new experience of playing in our league this season.
Celtic stepped up from the Wearside League in the summer, and have settled in well to life in the league, sitting in a comfortable mid-table place.
It's been a pleasing start for a club who, as Herbie says, have been planning for making the step up for several years.
"We had always been looking at getting promotion, whether that was to the Northern League or the North West Counties League", said Herbie.
"A couple of years ago we were at the top of the Wearside League and we asked for a North West Counties ground grading.
"Then last year, we knew that if we were near the top, with the FA restructuring (of the National League System) then we knew we had a chance of going up.
"There were a couple of major jobs that had to be done, the main one being getting a stand, and that is now done and we have got planning permission for another 50 seater stand adjacent to it, which we have got grants and money put together for, and the foundations will be in place in March".
One of the features of the club is its local focus, as a real centre of football for the town.
Cleator Moor has a population of less than 7,000, and Celtic are a focal point of the community, especially for any aspiring footballers in the town .
"We don't really use the wider catchment area, we are very much a local team", explained Herbie.
"Kids stay with us from about 4 or 5 years old, and the bulk of our squad are all Cleator Moor lads, there are only a few that aren't.
"Stuart Shaw is from Whitehaven and two or three are in Workington, but everyone else is Cleator Moor born and bred.
"The age range of our teams goes from under 5s right up to open age, with a strong contingent at under 18s, where at lot of the players represent the county at that age group.
"A couple of the lads who played at Daisy Hill on Saturday were playing for the county last week.
"We are not an old squad, we are a young squad. We went to Longridge a few weeks ago and had a daft 15 minute spell where we lost four goals, but if you look at that team, 7 of them were from the under 17s.
"Obviously we don't want that every week, because we need experience too, especially in this league as it is a lot different to playing in the Wearside League".
It's not just players that are enjoying the new experience of the Hallmark Security League, though, as the team is increasingly attracting a travelling support that are up for a good day out.
"Most teams in the league have got three trips up north in the season, they come to Cleator Moor, Holker and Carlisle", said Herbie.
"We do the long trips every other week, and people say to us "Why?". I'll tell you why, it's because we are a close knit community, and we all enjoy it, it's a day out.
"Some games we will bring about 20-odd supporters with us, depending on where go. The lads like going down to Liverpool, we've been there twice in the league and in the cup, and we've had over 20 down with us each time.
"They are always well behaved and make themselves heard.
"We set off usually about 10 o'clock on a Saturday, although for Daisy Hill on Saturday we left at 11, and often it's nearly 10 o'clock at night when we get back. So your Saturday's gone, you are out all day at the football, and it's a good day out from start to finish".
Looking ahead to the remainder of the season, Herbie says the focus is on building on the work that has been done to establish the club in the First Division North.
"This season was a new adventure for us all, we didn't know what we were going into what was what and who was who", he said.
"We have noticed the step up immensely both on and off the pitch. The paperwork involved is unbelievable, but we are on top of things now, enjoying it both home and away, and coping with the travel.
"If we weren't enjoying it we wouldn't be doing it as it is a lot of hours, and although sometimes you think 'is it worth it', once you get to Saturdays, you know it is.
"Ground improvements with the pitch will be going on all the time. We used to get a lot of games called off from November through to February. In the Wearside League, we sometimes went nearly three months sometimes and didn't kick a ball.
"But this season we have had only one called off which is good, and credit must go to our groundsman David Graham, and there's been a lot of money spent on the pitch too, so everything is looking rosy for the future.
"I said at the start of the season it was all about stabilising, avoid relegation. but turning into the New Year we are mid-table.
"Our aim now is to see this season out and push on from there next season, hopefully put a serious challenge together and see where it takes us".