AFTER nine clubs, 500-plus games, more than a dozen managers, countless goals and 17 years on the non-league scoring scene, Paul Fildes is ready to give it all up and go it alone in management.

At 34 there is a temptation for the striker to carry on playing, but niggling injuries have ultimately made the decision for him. The call from Nelson to be Mark Fell’s successor came at the right time, even though it meant early retirement from his career on the pitch.

“The club got in touch with me asking me why I hadn’t applied for the job and would I be willing to go and have a chat,” he explained.

“I was interested in speaking to them so I had a chat with Steve Wilkes, my manager at Padiham, and he gave me some good advice and told me to go for it.

“I’m struggling playing and getting in the side on a regular basis. I’d got a few knocks – the older you get the harder they are to shift – so I was going to retire from semi-professional football at the end of the season and get involved in management somewhere.

“When this opportunity came up and after I spoke to Nelson it was a no-brainer. To get an opportunity in management at this level doesn’t come up that often.

“They’d had some really good applicants so I was gobsmacked.

“But Nelson want to get local players and make it more of a family club and get a local manager, so it’s a good fit.

“I’ve officially hung up my boots.”

But rather than dwelling on his playing past, Fildes – a former hotshot of Bacup Borough, Barnoldswick Town, Clitheroe, Colne, Fylde, Kendal Town, Lancaster City, Padiham (three times) and Nelson – is excited for the future.

“I probably could carry on playing but it’s difficult being a manager and a player and there are some good young lads coming through the ranks, so I’d like to give what I have to them,” he said, ahead of his debut at home to Runcorn Linnets.

“The club has a lot of plans over the next few months.

“They are waiting for plans to go through for new changing facilities, a clubhouse and stand.

“It’s not just a quick fix. We’re building something over the next few years.”

With development work being done at Turf Moor and Gawthorpe, the project echoes that of Sean Dyche at Burnley, albeit on a smaller scale for the North West Counties League Premier Division club.

“It would be nice to maybe sit down with the Burnley manager and ask a few questions on how he does things,” said Fildes, who has dipped his toe in management waters before.

“I was chucked in a little bit at Barnoldswick,” he said.

“The management team left on Thursday night and on Saturday I was in charge.

“It was difficult because I was friends with the players. I made a few mistakes, but I didn’t get backed the way I thought I would.

“Now, with Nelson, I’ve asked a few questions and they are willing to support me 100 per cent. There are no targets set for this season – they want me to set my own targets, which are always high.”

Burnley-born Fildes, a sales executive, might have made it in the professional game had circumstances been different.

“When I was 22 I was offered a deal with Clyde in the Scottish First Division,” he said.

“I’d been scouted by Wolves when I was at Bacup.

“They’d been to watch me in 10 games through the season but when they marked me up on the scoring system they said I wasn’t quite good enough at the time. They had Nathan Blake and Kenny Miller up front.

“But they said I had potential and would pass on my details.

“I was offered a two-week trial with Clyde and then a pro contract.

“But I had a good job, was on a good wage and I’d just bought my first house and found out my girlfriend (now wife) Natalie was pregnant with our first child, so I decided not to sign.”

Father-of-three Fildes instead became the non-league equivalent of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – a baby-faced assassin.

He was the 2008/09 winner of the Lancashire Telegraph Golden Boot for a return of 34 goals in 37 games He might not be in the same class as the former Manchester United maestro, but when it comes to non-league goalscorers, Fildes has been in a league of his own.