Runcorn Linnets are determined to make up for lost time with Calum McIntyre’s senior men’s side certainly hoping that 2021-22 runs its course after two successive Covid-curtailed seasons.
The young manager is now in his second year in charge and looking to build on a promising platform laid over the six months of action, which were possible in 20-21 – before the pandemic again called a premature halt to proceedings, in this instance at the turn of the year.
With a blend of proven non-league experience and youthful exuberance, Calum has nurtured an excellent playing environment with his coaching skills, man management and meticulous attention to detail.
Runcorn were on the fringes of the play-off positions in the Northern Premier League North West Division when they unwittingly signed off with a victory at Prescot Cables on Boxing Day 2020.
Calum, at 27 years old, is one of the youngest managers in the football pyramid and also one of its brightest prospects as a UEFA B licensed coach. On appointment, Calum quickly named former Norwich City and Aberdeen deender, Colin Woodthorpe as his Runcorn assistant. Colin had successfully held the same managerial positions at both Colwyn Bay and AFC Fylde.
Also head of Academy at our fellow fans club Chester FC , Calum is fiercely ambitious to make a success of his maiden managerial role at senior level.
He has retained the majority of players from the 20-21 squad while recruiting early in summer 2021 to ensure that areas identified for improvement were promptly addressed and the team was fully prepared for an important pre-season after the enforced, extended lay-off.
A key element in the management and coaching strategy and playing style is the club’s state-of-the-art pitch, which presents Linnets with an outstanding surface. It was installed in summer of 2020, Linnets having been chosen to take part in the second phase of Sport England's hybrid carpet pilot programme.
The project, also in conjunction with the Football Foundation, Premier League, The Football Association and Cheshire FA, involved the laying of the durable international-standard pitch, comprising 95% natural grass, growing through and intertwined with the grass fibre carpet.
Its unveiling was the culmination of two years of hard work. The pitch benefits all sections of the club – being used for matches by the first team, Development and Academy teams plus the Linnets Ladies (playing in the North West League) while Akidemy and junior players, managers and coaches can use it for training. The pitch is also available for hire by community clubs and organisations.
The other major happenings in the 2020 close season involved the departures of Linnets' long-serving management team of boss Michael Ellison and assistant Matt Cross plus the retirement through injury of influential player and club captain, Kyle Hamid. Only Matt Atherton (313) has mad more appearances than Kyle's 261* with Michael Ellison, Mark Houghton and Rob Whyte the only other double century makers.
Ello and Crossy had been in charge since summer 2016 after both playing for the club and are assured of legendary status at Linnets on account of their on-field service and managerial achievement in bringing the club its first championship success. They had also overseen Runcorn’s first two seasons in the NPL after promotion as North West Counties League Premier Division title winners of 201718 - Linnets putting the disappointment of multiple near misses firmly behind them.
After three runners-up finishes in the previous four seasons, promotion as a top two finisher was finally clinched on April 28th 2018 on the 12th anniversary of the club's foundation.
The title was duly secured on May 3rd 2018 with a 5-0 home victory over Blackpool outfit, Squires Gate.
This long-awaited league crown was captured with two matches to spare and 100 points – a club record 122 league goals being scored over the 44 games with 36 conceded.
A crowd of 890 – still the record attendance for a Linnets home league match – saw the title trophy being lifted by jubilant club captain, Kyle Hamid on the final day of the season.
A subsequent attendance of 962 for the Buildbase FA Trophy visit of FC United of Manchester on November 23rd 2019 is the highest for a competitive Runcorn fixture at The Linnets Stadium, which turned 10 years old in July 2020.
The club enjoyed a very creditable introduction to Northern Premier League life in 2018-19 as members of its West Division.
This is the only NPL season which Linnets have hitherto been able to complete due to coronavirus, eventually missing out on a playoff spot on goals difference.
After further reorganisation of the league structure, seeing the creation of a third NPL division at Step 4 for 2021-22, Linnets now revert to being members of the West Division with the North West Division being abolished.
Linnets have come a long way since being founded in 2006 by supporters of former national non-league champions, Runcorn AFC after a traumatic end for the old club.
The initial aims had been to bring the successor Linnets back to Runcorn and establish the club as one of which the community could be proud. Both these ambitions were achieved with the club still in its infancy.
The stadium in the Murdishaw area of Runcorn, opened in 2010 with the project having been supported by Halton Borough Council, the FA and Football Foundation as well as the club and its fans.
Winter 2017 saw the completion of a replacement £1.4 million clubhouse as part of wider redevelopment of surrounding land with retail and leisure facilities.
At the same time, pitches outside the stadium were fenced in for use by the Linnets' numerous junior teams with the club also signing a new long-term lease for the extended site with Halton Council.
Runcorn Linnets Football Club was born after Runcorn AFC had intimated it would not be in a position to field a team beyond the end of 2005-06 season.
Upon leaving town in 2001, the now defunct club had suffered a troubled and nomadic existence.
Fans met at their spiritual home of Canal Street – in the then Quayside Bar and Function Rooms, next to the Linnets Park housing estate on which Runcorn AFC's ground had once stood.
An existing Supporters Trust was remodelled to run Runcorn Linnets, whose identity was derived from Runcorn AFC's nickname.
The new club spent its first four years playing home games as tenants of Witton Albion FC at Wincham Park, Northwich - gaining promotion at the first attempt to the top division of the North West Counties League under the management of Steve Carragher, who had been the predecessor club's last team boss.
Victory against Formby in the NWCL Challenge Cup final in 2012-13 brought a first winners' trophy for the first team. Former Runcorn AFC player, Joey Dunn was the then manager.
Paul McNally is another "old boy" of the original club to have managed the new with Steve Wilkes being the only manager prior to the present incumbent not to have had any previous Linnets connections.
Wilkes had in 2009 led the Linnets to their first ever final, only to be beaten to the League Cup by New Mills at Tameside Stadium, which would be the scene for the club's triumph in the same competition four years later.
The abandoned 2019-20 season saw Linnets make their debut in the NPL Academy as they looked to expand on firm foundations. The 20-21 cohort went on to reach the ESPFA National finals as winners of the Northern section.
Linnets’ recently-formed U21s team, which was to be renamed the Development team in summer 2021, also flourished from the outset. The end of its first season saw one of the star players, Eden Gumbs earn promotion to the first team squad for 2021-22 with the hope that many more will follow his example.