THE dust is still settling on AFC Darwen’s incredible end to the season.

Twelve wins from their final 13 matches saw the Salmoners claim both the North West Counties League First Division Cup and a maiden promotion to the Premier Division.


What made their storming finale all the more remarkable was that the last 12 of those matches were played in the space of 27 stamina-sapping days.

Darwen, understandably, are proud of their Herculean efforts.

But chairman Wayne Wild, who has enjoyed a dream first full season at the club, insists no-one at the WEC Group Anchor Ground will be resting on their laurels.

“I’m absolutely over the moon with how it’s gone,” said Wild, whose award-winning, Darwen-based company, WEC Group, sponsor Darwen’s home ground.

“The intention was to try for promotion in the first year but we knew it was going to be difficult because we’d never achieved it before. So I feel we overachieved by finishing in third position, winning the league cup and then winning the play-off final.

“It is a fantastic achievement, especially considering the pile-up of games we had at the end because of the postponements. At one point we had five games in seven days!

“But it’s going to be much more difficult next season.

“There’s going to be 22 teams in the Premier Division and that means there will be 42 league games. Plus we’re in four cups, including the FA Cup, which we automatically qualified for because we got third place.

“Also there were three promotion places this season whereas next season there will only be one – only the champions go up – and there will be other teams paying quite a high level to players.

“But it’s not about consolidating. I don’t like the word consolidation, I never have. It’s like you’re admitting defeat before you start.

“Yes we won’t have as big as budget as other teams but we’ll bring players in to enhance the squad and we hope the full management team can help take us up again because the aim has got to be back-to-back promotions.”

The Salmoners are in the process of interviewing candidates for a position on the club’s management team.

But Wild has confirmed that Nick Lloyd, who led the club to double success after taking over as caretaker manager in October, and former Blackburn Rovers and Scotland star Kevin Gallacher, who has served as the club’s director of football since March 2014, will be involved again in 2015/16.

“Nick did the caretaker manager role exceptionally well – so well I call him the Jose Mourinho of non-league,” joked Wild. “He’s got a fantastic record, one you can’t criticise at any level.

“We’re looking to enhance the management team and what position that is – whether it’s manager, assistant manager or coach – depends on who comes out of the mix.

“Nick is doing the interviews with me and whatever happens, he will remain as part of the management team. Kevin is also carrying on next season, which is a great boost for the club.

“He wants to go on to manage at a decent level so Darwen are helping him in his career path.

“His coaching methods obviously worked. The guys are really pleased at somebody of his level is taking time out to help and work with the lads.”

Improvements are also being made to Darwen’s pitch, improvements which will be completed by the start of pre-season, the highlight of which sees a visit of League Two neighbours Accrington Stanley on July 14.

Away from the field Wild has been using his contacts to bring in a raft of new businesses to support the club next season.

The lifelong Blackburn Rovers fan stepped up his involvement in the Salmoners when he was appointed their chairman in February 2014.

“They needed commercial input into the club and, obviously, my experience is commercial,” said Wild, a Rovers season-ticket holder. 

“I tried very hard to get involved with the Blackburn Rovers owners (Venky’s), but that never came to fruition, so when Darwen asked me to get involved, I just thought I could help.

“And, like anything, it escalated from there. If I get involved, I get involved 100 per cent.

“I’m captured now and we’ve just got try to and build on the momentum we’ve got and achieve the best that we can.”