A few weeks ago, we brought you an interview with Stockport Sports FC's star striker John Marsden. Luckily, though, the club is one of the most accessible around, and we've got another interview for you today. Chris Culkin has become the team's de facto media guru, and he joined us for an interview that ranges from how he got involved with the club to the Saxon's prospects on the season to advice for anyone looking to get involved in football from a non-playing side.
How did you come to be interested in Stockport Sports? Are you a fan from the Woodley Athletic days, or did you get swept up in the rebranding?
I'm from the area and have always been a football fan. The team I supported as a child and still passionately follow aged 34 is Manchester United and I had a season ticket at Old Trafford for a number of years. I always had an interest in the local clubs though, mainly through friends who played semi-professionally and Woodley Sports were one of those local sides I followed. Because I'd go to games at Old Trafford and some away games, attending games at Woodley or other semi-professional clubs was something I'd do rarely, maybe four or five times a season, until about five years ago when I realised that I wasn't getting as much enjoyment out of attending United games as I used to. Certainly not enough to justify paying the money for a season ticket. That was after they won the European Cup against Chelsea in Moscow and I don't think I've been to a United game since.
I started watching another local club New Mills on a regular basis, they're a club of similar size, although again I still would go to the odd game at Woodley . The all weather surface made it the perfect place to go when other games were postponed. So basically they were always a club I followed, but I couldn't say I followed them passionately. That would be a lie. Anyway when I read in the local press that Peter Withe had taken over and there was a rebranding I thought that's a project that I want to be part of. So to answer the question it's a bit of both really. I was always interested in the club, but it was the rebranding that enticed me completely.
You are pretty much the de facto media relations person for the team. You patrol twitter for mentions, you write fantastically forthright match reviews, and you do a lot in terms of promotion. How did you manage to swing such a fun role with the team?
First of all thanks for your compliments. I always read your Stockport report on the blog and it makes interesting reading. Once I saw the way the club was heading and the ambition they were showing with the appointment of Peter, I thought then that I was going to go and watch the club this season. Anyway within a week or two of the apppointment I saw the advertisement for a media/press officer at the club and I registered my interest. It's all gone from there really. You're absolutely right, it is a fun job. I love watching football and I love writing about it, so what more could I wish for? It's a great club to be involved with and I enjoy every bit of the job I do.
For people who are interested in careers in football, is yours a path that you would recommend?
If anyone was looking to get into a job within the football industry I would certainly recommend doing something like this. Get involved with a semi-professional club, for no money or little money and expenses, show that you're passionate about it and that you care and it will stand you in good stead. I know for a fact that Sky Sports in the UK employ people as touchline reporters who have worked their way up from similar backgrounds. Two in particular stand out, one who was a Wolves fanzine editor and another who had the same role as mine at a club at similar level.
Ultimately if you're good at the job and you show passion then you will progress and get a chance. I firmly believe that you can't stop talent progressing and as it's so competitive getting jobs in football I would say get any job you can, paid or not and if you do it well people will see that.
What's the best part of being an avid supporter of a non-league team? At this point, do you care more about Stockport than you do whichever EPL team you support?
The best part of supporting a club at this level is undoubtedly the close relationship you can have with the players and the supporters. It's great having banter with the lads on Twitter and several of the players text me regularly to comment on my reports or articles. You just wouldn't get that at a higher level. Likewise with the supporters. John Marsden's dad and grandad come to every game and I like to stand and chat football with them during the matches, although as Liverpool fans they don't really know much about the game!!!
Having said that, it's actually quite funny at the moment that as a Greater Manchester club we have a heavy Liverpool influence. Obviously Peter is from Liverpool as is Marso, Kyle Hamid and Lee Madin. Joey Dunn is also from Merseyside. I'd say that considering six months ago I had no connection to this club it's amazing how my opinion has changed. From just being a casual observer I now support them just as passionately as I do United. It's different really. I think there's probably room in peoples' lives for a professional team and one further down the ladder. Should The Saxons get where they want to go then maybe I'd have to make a choice!!
John Marsden, of course, has been on an absolute tear this season. But he's not the only player on the team. To whom else should we be paying close attention?
Marso obviously gets most of the headlines as the leading scorer, but I'm sure he'd be the first to admit that it's a team game and he can only be as good as the service he receives. Which lately has been pretty good. There's lots of players I rate. Ricky Anane is a really good right-back. He's certainly got the talent to play at a higher level. Mike Tomlinson the experienced central defender is the key player now I'd say. Since he arrived the season has turned around. His vast knowledge of the game has rubbed off on the other players and really helped.
Jamie Street is a young Australian centre-back who when I first saw him I thought maybe was slightly short of the level needed and that he may need some reserve team football. Anyway, he's proved me wrong completely as he seems to improve every week. He's very keen to learn and progress and at 19 I'm sure he'll move onto better things at some stage.
Liam Irwin is a Republic of Ireland youth international, and his dad Denis is a hero of mine. Liam is a different sort of player to his dad. A midfielder who's really good on the ball, creative, skilfull and quick. He's another who's improved each week and I'd be very, very surprised if he doesn't make it back into full-time football, he had previously been at Bolton Wanderers.
Matty Ward is another recent signing who has impressed everyone. He's one of the most skilfill players in the league and a great dribbler. He creates and scores goals. He played against us four times this season for Ashton Athletic and impressed every time, so much so that we signed him. He's still young and I think he could easily play a few levels higher.
Lee Madin is really underated as a player. He's only played a few games for us and I don't think he's scored yet, but he's a striker who has more to his game than goals. I know Marso loves playing with him as he's so unselfish and is happy to let Marso get the glory. Obviously Marso is a good player. I suspect we'll lose him eventually, maybe to a league club, but at the moment he's happy with us and everyone at the club thinks the world of him.
Finally, what's your prediction for the team this season? Is promotion in the cards?
Promotion is still very much on I'd say. The league is very competitive this season and having to play so many away games at the start knocked us back a bit I think. I also think the playing side wasn't quite ready for the seasons start. We lost a few key players in the last few days before the season and their replacements maybe weren't quite good enough. If we'd started the season with the side we have now I'd say we'd walk it, but with those early dropped points it's going to be tough. We've still got to play all out rivals at home, where I'm sure we can remain unbeaten in the league, and providing we pick up points away from home I don't see why we can't be there or thereabouts.
In other Stockport News, the Saxons suffered their first loss at Stockport Sports Village in a 1-2 defeat to Runcorn Linnets in the NWCFL League Challenge Cup. The loss came in extra time while Peter Withe used a squad that only had two starters left over from last weekend's win. Luckily, the loss doesn't affect their place in the NWCFL standings, and was a great opportunity for Withe to try some new players.
The Saxons have their next match tonight (1945 GMT kickoff) at home against Glossop North End. In their last encounter, the two teams drew 2-2 at Glossop.
We'll be back next week with results of the match. Up the Saxons!