We’re Back Where We Belong Says Altrincham Manager Lee Sinnott
HAVING restored a traditional Non-League name back to the top tier, Altrincham boss Lee Sinnott immediately set to work to make sure they stay there.
Alty returned to the Conference Premier three years after relegation.
They’ve come close, with two play-off appearances in the last two seasons, but they finally got back among the big boys last weekend.
That was thanks to Greg Wilkinson’s extra-time winner at the death to help the Robins past Guiseley 2-1.
And while Sinnott enjoyed the occasion, the former Farsley Celtic and Port Vale manager knows he can’t afford to waste any time getting ready for the big kick-off in August.
“Planning has started already,” Sinnott said. “I’ve had a meeting with the chairman to formulate our plans.
“There are some longer journeys and bigger commitments needed from the players. But they can class themselves as Conference Premier players now. That’s a big fillip for them and it’s a box ticked after the disappointment of last year and losing in the play-offs.
“They’ve broken through the glass ceiling and shown they can come through the tough mental, and not just physical, encounters.
“I felt the desire to go again very early. If you look at our first 12 games we started very strongly. I’d expect the same again now because of the excitement of playing against quite a few ex-League teams.
“It’s a big challenge for them but I’m sure they are looking forward to it immensely.”
Alty’s biggest crowd in 32 years witnessed the play-off glory with 4,632 packing into their Moss Lane home.
Sinnott, who described the support as jaw-dropping, admitted that super-sub Wilkinson had been sent on with the scores locked at 1-1 and the dreaded penalty shoot-out in mind.
Instead he was calmness personified from 18 yards instead of 12, stroking the ball home from the edge of the box to send their support barmy.
And the incredible scenes left Sinnott shocked for 48 hours after the game.
“You’re numb, especially in the circumstances that it did happen,” said Sinnott. “We were putting Greg on with the intention of taking a penalty – within 22 seconds he writes himself into folklore. It worked out perfectly.
“When the dust settles after 48 hours you do think it’s nice to put them back where they were.
“When a club gets relegated there is doom and gloom, of course there is. You look at the playing side of it; some didn’t want to step down to the Conference North, some stayed and you need to bring other bodies in as well so it was a big change.
“The idea was to get the team pointed in right direction and then make progress from there. From an OK first season finishing eighth, the last two seasons have been testament to that progress.
“You can wave a magic wand – look at Liam Watson at Telford. He’s done a tremendous job and they’ve gone straight back up. In the Conference North where only one team goes up automatically and another in the play-offs, it can be achieved but it’s not a given that’s for sure.
“We’ve made progress and the majority of the squad are a good age so we’re looking to push on next season.”
With part-timers FC Halifax finishing in this season’s Skrill Premier top five and the likes of Braintree, Alfreton, Woking and Nuneaton all having good campaigns, Altrincham know they’re not taking on a mission impossible taking on so many ex-League heavyweights.
“Non-League has changed dramatically over the last ten or more years, with so many ex-League clubs being in the Conference at one stage or another,” he said.
“Altrincham has been a very big name traditionally in Non-League football and that’s the most pleasing aspect of getting them back.”