WHEN he arrives at Rakesmoor Lane ahead of this afternoon’s North West Counties League match at home to Garstang, Holker Old Boys chairman Maurice Watkin will be undertaking a familiar ritual.

By his own admission, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during the season have been pretty much football, football and more football at a club which has been a huge part of his life in various roles for around 20 years.

But there will be something a little bit different about today’s game as it marks a special milestone for Holker - their 1,000th North West Counties League game since joining in 1991.

“It’s a big statement for local football to have records like this,” said Watkin.

The chairman’s involvement at Rakesmoor Lane goes back to when he moved from a successful spell as junior manager at Nautical, bringing several players with him.

It was his time as assistant manager to Dave Smith which provided some of his best memories at Holker though, particularly the 2010-11 season when he was having to surreptitiously keep up with results from his hospital bed.

“We went on a run of 17 games unbeaten and unfortunately I was taken into Blackpool Hospital for a triple bypass,” recalled Watkin.

“But I still had my phone hidden under the bed-covers and I used to listen to results, which you weren’t supposed to.

“The four years I was there with Dave Smith, we took over with an average side, changed it around a little bit and finished third.”

That third-place finish in Division One in 2011 equalled Holker’s previous-best performance in the second tier of the NWCL in 1994, although on that first occasion they were promoted to the top flight rather than turning it down.

John Goodwin was manager for Old Boys’ first two seasons in Division One, a time when they were just two divisions below the town’s senior football team, Barrow AFC.

Goodwin recalls the final days of an era where players were genuine amateurs who paid subs to play for Holker and were happy just to have the opportunity to test themselves at a high level.

The fixture list included opponents who have gone on to the higher levels of non-League football such as Bradford Park Avenue and Salford City.

And Goodwin hailed committee members such as Ronnie Moffatt, Ray Sharp and Alan Wilson for getting the club started in this competition.

“It’s a massive achievement getting to 1,000 games and I don’t think there are many who have done it because a lot of the clubs who were there when I managed have moved on,” said Goodwin.

“I went to watch Barrow the other week at Salford, and it’s amazing to think we went there with Holker Old Boys.

“A lot have gone on and done all right, and some have just gone, but it was a really hard league when I managed it in.”

These days, former player Guy Heffernan is the man in charge and his focus is firmly on building for the future, with the average age of the team at present being around 21 and 22.

That has yet to manifest results, with Holker bottom of the First Division North and still looking for their first win, but Heffernan believes those will soon come.

“If you look at how we’ve played and conducted ourselves, it’s been really good,” said Heffernan, who takes great pride in being in the dugout for this milestone.

“I still have faith in every player at the club and if they keep working hard, they’ll get the rewards. I still believe we will be in the top eight by the end of the season.”

The youthful nature of the present Holker team is underlined by the fact Heffernan’s central midfielders for the first three games of the 2018-19 season were aged just 16 and 17.

Long-term, the plan is to progress to the semi-professional ranks and it is hoped this crop of young players will be part of that.

Even though it has not been the easiest of starts to the campaign,Watkin has a firm belief that dream will be realised.

“It’s not easy for the club and management team, but we will get there,” said Watkin.