By Liam Price:
In the last of our previews of the teams joining the Evo-Stik Premier Division next season, we focus on Wigan-based Atherton Collieries AFC.
Position: 1st (Evo-Stik Division One West Champions)
Atherton topped the reorganised Evo-Stik Division One West with an impressive 82 points, seven
clear of their nearest rivals and with a much superior goal difference. They also topped the goalscoring charts with 89, and at one point had an unbeaten league run of eleven games stretching through the busy Christmas period, putting the Colls on a good platform to secure the league title.
In the Dugout – Michael Clegg
Michael Clegg will begin his sixth season with Atherton Collieries after bagging the latest in an ever-
growing collection of titles under his leadership.
Taking over at the start of the 2014/15 season after spending time at another Atherton club, Atherton Laburnum Rovers, Clegg led the Colls to the North West Counties League Division One title and the Bolton Hospital Cup in his first season in charge.
He has since gone on to win the North West Counties League Cup, the North West Premier Division, the Northern Premier League Challenge Cup, topping it off with the Evo-Stik Division One West trophy at the end of last season, the highest league finish in the club’s history.
Clegg has built a side the whole local community can be proud of, made up largely of players, coaches and volunteers from the Atherton area, and will be hoping those players and any new additions can settle quickly into their new league.
A Look Back
Atherton Collieries were set up in 1916. As the name suggests, they share strong links to the traditional coal mining that took place in the Wigan area, and were initially established to provide support to those in the area who were helping with the war effort during the First World War. They were founding members of the Northern Counties League in 1982, and their six victories in the Lancashire County FA Amateur Shield remains unbeaten to this day. In recent years, they were the starting point for winger Anthony Pilkington, who went on to play in the Premier League with Norwich City and has nine caps for the Republic of Ireland.
Atherton have played at the Alder House stadium since their formation, but the ground has undergone some major changes over the years, most notably the pitch being rotated 90 degrees. One of its stands is made from old railway sleepers, and the stadium as a whole can hold 2,500 people. The closest train station, Atherton, is just a ten-minute walk from the stadium.