New Milnthorpe boss Gardner: 'We're starting from scratch'

Shaun Gardner has put his Milnthorpe Corinthians players through their first pre-season paces – after admitting his first few weeks in a managerial role was “challenging”.

Gardner, 34, was announced as Corinthians’ new manager after the shock departure of Division One title winning manager Jimmy Marshall to Kendal Town.

A host of players have followed Marshall to Parkside – including 28-goal top scorer Steve Yawson – leaving Gardner with just five players left from last season.

But the well-travelled non-league attacker is using his contacts in the game to get a blend of youth and experience for Milnthorpe’s assault on the Premier Division in 2022/23.

Shaun Gardner at Bradford Park Avenue

Shaun Gardner at Bradford Park Avenue

“We’re starting from scratch really,” said Gardner, who runs the GT7 Football Academy with Garry Thompson, the ex-Bradford City, Scunthorpe, Morecambe and Wycombe winger, who will act as his assistant at Milnthorpe.

“It’s been a challenging few weeks. Potentially we might lose eight players to Kendal, some of the bigger names have already gone – I have absolutely nothing against that.

“New managers come in and naturally want some players to go with them – that’s football. I have experienced it as a player at a higher level, it happens.

“I’m a big believer in youth, I know the good young players in the area. Lewis Airey is coming here from Endmoor in the Westmorland League and he’s a real talent.

New signing Lewis Airey

New signing Lewis Airey

“It’s about coaching and making them better players. We’ve still got our captain and vice captain from last season so I am excited about what lies ahead.

“We’ve got a few more signings to make and they have to want to come here and learn and use it as a stepping stone to bigger things.

“Milnthorpe is renowned for being one of the best clubs in the area and we want to keep that reputation and develop it.

“It was the first training session last night… it was tough for them. At lunchtime I did fear for them with the heat but then the heavens opened!”

Gardner has more than 300 appearances at Kendal, Penrith, AFC Liverpool and Bradford Park Avenue.

His last role was as assistant manager last season to Chris Humphrey at Kendal and later Penrith. He and Thompson also had a brief spell in charge of Bradford Park Avenue in the National League North in 2019.

Gardner, who says both he and Thompson will pull on their boots if needed, explained how the move to Milnthorpe came about.

“It came out of nowhere,” said Gardner, who has three boys, aged 12, eight and three.

“I saw Jimmy had been appointed at Kendal Town but didn’t think too much about it.

"I had managed Milnthorpe for three games four or five years ago as a caretaker and we won all three. I was only 29 then and I was too young.

“The first I knew about it was when someone told me I was the favourite for the Milnthorpe job. It was news to me!

“I then spoke to the chairman and he told me of the club’s interest and that I was the main target, which was nice.

“I met with the committee and told them how I wanted to run things, what my values and philosophy were. They offered me the job there and then – I asked for 24 hours so I could speak to the wife!”

After getting the nod from Mrs G, he’s been busy getting that squad together for the club’s debut campaign in the West Lancashire League Premier Division.

So what will success look like?

“It’s completely unknown. I want to challenge for leagues but realistically you want to have a good solid season.

"Especially after the upheaval and the loss of some of the stronger players to Kendal.

“We want and need stability but we also need a winning mentality and a squad that has togetherness. I think top half may exceed expectations.

“I’ve played with a lot of good players in my career and I’ve never fallen out with people.

“So it’s been great that some players I am trying to bring in said they will happily come and play for us.

"So we’re on the right track.”

Where next?

Horner in hotseat at Poulton Craig Horner has been announced as Poulton FC's new manager.
Marshall: 'It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up' Jimmy Marshall admitted it was a wrench to leave his title-winning Milnthorpe Corinthians side – but said he couldn’t turn down the chance to manage at Kendal Town.

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