By Mark Heys, Lisa Knight & Shaun Watterson
August 5 2005
Walking Down The Manny Road recently caught up with Rushen United supporter Shaun Watterson to see what impact the Wanderers recent visit had on the Isle of Man club and Manx Football in general.
Mark: What impact did Bolton's recent visit have on Rushen United and Manx football as a whole?
Shaun: "A major impact on our club certainly!...and we’re still getting over it! We raised around £35K from the game and Gala Dinner the evening before. We have an aim to build an indoor training area for the kids of the club, who are regularly exposed to the harsh weather during training in the winter."
"Rushen is one of the best supported clubs on the Island with an average gate of between 100-150, we have our own clubhouse and pitch. That said, organization of the game certainly stretched our resources at times, but we got there in the end and hopefully locals and Traveling Trotters alike had a great day!"
"Overall, Manx Football isn’t a very confident beast and never has been. We seem to be happy to play the annual Steam Packet Festival against the likes of Wrexham, Oldham and Carlisle which is great. But in between these tournaments we don’t have regular trips to the UK to play friendlies, or receive coaching from top clubs. We don’t seem to try and improve our game."
"I personally would like to see the Island team play in the Northwest Counties Leagues and see how we get on. The step up in competition would hopefully improve our top players as a whole, and this would in turn give the island a team we can have some affinity with".
"Going back to Rushen, I hope we have now made a link with Bolton (even though I’m a City fan!!) which means we can approach the club every couple of years or so with regards to doing something different".
"Whether it be hosting your squad on a social/golfing break during the season, taking our kids across to play one of the Bolton teams and getting some coaching from your academy, or indeed hosting your academy team in a pre-season friendly on our patch."
"I hope and think we’ve made some friends in Bolton, and I’m sure we would also welcome supporter’s teams if they wanted a game of football and a weekend of socializing!! I would also hope a Bolton Wanderers supporters branch is set up on the Island. There are quite a few supporters, and hopefully now they have been given the foundation to get something sorted".
Mark: Has the Trotters visit encouraged Rushen to do anything differently to what they would have done before?
Shaun: "Yes…everything! From the way our players prepare for games and conduct themselves off the pitch, to how we organize training sessions and set up for various opponents."
"Also Simon Marland and Danny Reuben gave us an great insight in how things at a big club are ran and organized, and how to be professional in our approach. This hopefully carried through to the way the game was organized etc. It will also help us with our fundraising efforts, and indeed the way we run the club and try to encourage more people to spend a Saturday afternoon at a game."
"The players were also a credit to the club and the Town of Bolton. You might not be aware, but both sets of players joined up later on Saturday evening for some light refreshments and a chat which was great to see. No arrogance which you may associate with some clubs (mainly who wear red & white!!).I’m led to believe that a guitar was being played at the hotel until around 5.30am!! Quality pre-season shinannagins!"
"Following the success of this game, we may also be playing one of the top sides from Northern Ireland over the next year or so. Overall whether it’s Rushen trying to build a training area, or Jurby FC trying to errect floodlights, I hope this has given all the clubs the confidence to get off their arse and try and improve facilities and their own game at the same time"
Mark: Do you expect more Premiership teams to follow Bolton's lead and come over to the Isle of Man for friendly matches in the future?
Shaun: "I would certainly hope professional teams would now try and play club teams on the Island instead of just the National XI. We have played one pre-season game since July 9th and won 1-0. However the confidence the players have following the game with your lads is immense, and the manner in which they won was very pleasing to see."
"When you consider many of the team are 16-22, I think the experience will stand them in good stead…they already seemed to have improved light years when they were thrown in our First XI last summer."
"As I say we would love to see many more clubs pop across the water…This will again probably lead to defeat, but it gives us an opportunity to make links and improve our game once again…and of course have a few beers!"
Mark: Have Rushen gained any new supporters since the friendly with Bolton?
Shaun: "It’s very hard to say, simply because we don’t start our season until 20th of August. I think like many sports over the last 10-20 years we’ve certainly seen a drop in quality of youngsters coming through clubs on the Island due to the advent of computer games, internet…other distractions if you will. However, The junior side of things is thriving with around 3,000 of the Islands 12,000 school children registered with a football club."
"I would hope as we had a player from every other first division side involved on the day, that Manx Football as a whole get the benefit of seeing an increase in people supporting their respective local teams. Even if this means the children who are affiliated with clubs being impressed by a player and taking the time to watch his club at a local level, it can only be good for our game."
Mark: What kind of season do you think Rushen will have and which players are likely to stand out?
Shaun: "I think we’ll have a very good one…I can’t remember much about last season due to the amazing consumption of red wine on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings!"
I think we finished 8th or 9th in Division One. At the start of the season, it was touch and go if we would stay up, simply because it took a while for the kids to find their feet. Even though we had regular tonkings by 5 and 6 goals, by the second half of the season the team clicked and picked up points and had a nice unbeaten run".
"Judging by the work they have put in, I would hope we will be in the top four or five by the end of the season with maybe a good Cup run as a distraction. Players who will do well this year are the likes of Aron Sorrie and Dickie Corrin…stalwarts with over 1000 appearances for Rushen between them, Ryan Denham in defence along with Neil Curphey and Andrew Moody starting a new partnership up front."
"The kids will hopefully continue to improve and if we can keep them together we could be challenging for the Manx Title."
Walking Down The Manny Road would like to sincerely thank Shaun for giving up his time to conduct this interview and we certainly wish Rushen United all the very best for the forthcoming season.
Please note that there are still some programmes left from the Rushen United vs Bolton Wanderers friendly game, and these can be ordered by contacting Shaun at email@example.com. Price: £2 plus 30p for p&p