The reigning champions of the Altrincham & District Amateur Football League (ADAFL) will make their bow in the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL this season.
Sale Amateurs are moving to pastures new in search of a new challenge after this ‘band of brothers’ enjoyed an immensely fruitful time over the last three years in particular, which have yielded league and cup triumphs.
This coincides with the stewardship of Dan Creely, whose reign as secretary has seen significant changes – including the move to the L&C – while also retaining a link to the club’s beginnings.
The passion for the club runs in the family, as Dave Creely, Dan’s Grandfather, set up Sale Amateurs back in 1987. His dad and uncles also appeared for the club, a tradition his involvement has continued.
Now, Dan enjoys the valued support of Mike Gleave, Sale’s manager, and both have input into the team’s on-field fortunes. Sam Nolan is the Chairman and in another link to Sale teams of years gone by, Scott Bowden is the Treasurer and, just as significantly, is one of three players who still turn out for Sale Amateurs and also did so for Dave Creely.
It has been key in fostering what is a “special” bond felt within the squad, evident with the achievements since 2017.
The tide for the club’s on-field fortunes changed after an “epic” night in the Altrincham Senior Cup in 2018.
Dan explains: “I took over in the middle of 2017, and before that it was Sam Nolan, who is one of our Chairmen. Myself and Mike Gleave, the manager, stepped up.
“At first, I agreed to step in and hopefully the club would get a manager. Mike wasn’t keen either, but we took it on and ended up in a cup final which we won on penalties. It was an epic night with hundreds of people watching and we’ve gone from strength to strength since.”
In the semi-final, Sale Amateurs overcame rivals, Jolly Butcher, described by Dan as a “tough, physical side.” Down to 10 men, the club hung on for a 3-2 win, before seeing off Partington on penalties in the final – “a massive night” for the club which brought the first trophy for Sale in quite some time.
Since then, the quality on the pitch has shone through; in 2018/19, Sale Amateurs finished the season third in the league, just six points behind Partington, and with an attack and defence only bettered by the table-toppers.
Before the 2019/20 season was called to a halt, Sale Amateurs were sitting pretty at the top of the league, four points clear with a game in hand. They hadn’t tasted defeat in the league, and possessed its most potent attack and meanest defence.
Cup success was very much anticipated too, with a semi-final appearance booked in, before the pandemic put paid to that.
It paints a picture of a club ready for a move, looking for greater challenges on the pitch. Dan explained: “Since 1987, the club has played in the ADAFL but the league has shrunk and is now one league when it used to have three, so it was something we needed to address.”
Off the pitch too, the club boasts some of the best facilities amateur football could wish for; under Dan’s watchful eye, Sale have moved from their old Manor Avenue playing facilities to Banky Lane at Mersey Valley Sports Club.
Dan added: “They are the best facilities around by a country mile and are at North West Counties standard. There is a seating area next to the pitch and the whole club has a good setup.”
There will be challenges of course, in terms of playing and the extra demands on travelling to fixtures which, Dan concedes, Sale Amateurs “will have to adjust to.”
To help with this transition, player recruitment is important, as is squad depth; Sale Amateurs are struggling with neither. At the time of writing, 28 players had committed to the club, but through word of mouth, and the power of social media, there is a great reach.
Dan said: “What I find is when lads move into the area and want to play football, they find out through social media. I have had lads turn up who have moved from Stoke, two lads who have moved over from Brazil, one from Australia.”
This is underpinned by superb coaching – something the club’s secretary feels they are blessed with – and a core group of players who have a bond that is “special,” and feels like an extended family.
Dan concluded: “We respect each other and we are a band of brothers. It is very much a family.
“One thing I will definitely say, and I find it quite special, is that within this team, from the squad we’ve pulled together for the last three years, there are people that have absolutely no right to know each other but they turn up on Saturday and all of a sudden are the best of mates.
“We have a 44-year-old centre half who played for my Granddad and he’s still an unbelievable player. All the lads love him.
“He shouldn’t be around! But all these lads love each other and the respect they have is unbelievable.”