Mon 1st August 2016 | St Helens Town | By Kieran Ford
St Helens Town striker and captain Andy Gillespie scored 34 goals last season and claimed the league’s top goalscorer award.
However, his team missed out on the playoffs by a single point.
With much of last season’s squad retained, a playoff push this season is a given, and the St Helens Town skipper believes a greater prize could be on the cards.
“I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t finish in the playoff positions as we were so close last year”, said Andy. “If we play like we did towards the back end of last season, I don’t see why we can’t have a very successful season”.
As well as promotion aspirations, the club are scheduled to move back to the town of St Helens in early October to a new home in the Ruskin Drive complex, a move that is relished by their captain.
“Back when we used to play in St Helens and at Knowsley Road, I was 17 or 18 and it was great, there was a bigger crowd back then and hopefully that will return when we move back to St Helens. I’m very much looking forward to the new ground and the new facilities”
Gillespie is the only current St Helens Town player who played at the old Knowsley Road ground before it’s demolition in 2010. Before leaving the stadium 6 years ago, Town averaged crowds of 80 or 90 people, a far cry from the stadium’s 18,000 capacity, and the present day skipper has fond memories of playing at the famous old ground.
“It was big and it was empty, I remember when I used to be on the pitch and people were shouting and it used to echo around the whole of the ground.
“If the ball went to the top of the stand, someone had to run round and go and get it, and in a big stadium like that, I’m sure it was as tiring for him as it was for us sometimes!”
Gillespie has racked up 118 appearances and scored 60 goals, which ranks him as Town’s 6th all-time leading goalscorer, but he isn’t totally focussed on increasing his personal tally at the expense of the team.
”On a personal level, I’d take 20 goals and 10 assists. I always look out for my team, it’s in their best interests and not just mine. I’m not a greedy striker and I never have been. I’m just as happy with an assist as I am a goal”.
It could be argued that promotion to the Hallmark Security League Premier Division will be a much harder task this season as there will be 6 new clubs entering the division for the first time, as well as the 3 teams relegated from the Premier Division.
St Helens Town will face one of the new teams on the opening day, Carlisle City, and Gillespie believes that away from home they will provide a stern test.
“The interesting thing with the new teams is you never know what they’re going to have or what they’re going to be like”, he said.
“They might have come from leagues where they have won a lot of games, but you don’t know how strong that league really is. I’m sure if they’ve won trophies in their old leagues then they’ll come up with a lot of confidence.
“I think they’re going to be lively, it’ll be interesting to see how we do against them because we come up against Carlisle City on the opening day who themselves are new, and that’ll be a good test.”
St Helens Town’s Andy Gillespie speaks about his team’s promotion chances, and what it was like to play at the iconic Knowsley Road stadium