Andy Welsh never contemplated walking away from Ossett United in the summer as he felt duty-bound to stay at the helm.
Welsh and assistant Paul Quinn are preparing for Ossett’s second campaign as a merged club in the BetVictor North West.
The pair led them to the play-offs and a West Riding County Cup triumph in the first year, but those achievements have been slightly tainted by well-publicised off-the-field issues.
Ossett say they are on top of those problems and Welsh hailed the club’s togetherness in their efforts to solve them.
“Not (a hard decision) for me (to stay) because last year I was heavily involved in the building of the football club, like putting the first team out on the pitch,” Welsh told Non League Yorkshire.
“Last year there was a lot of history that was made, like getting to the play-offs and winning the cup.
“I understand this club and this club understands me. I think it is time to stand side-by-side. Myself, Paul Quinn, Phil (Smith) and everyone else, we all work hard for this club.
“I want to be in a position where one day if I leave I can hold my head up high and say ‘when the going did get tough, I didn’t turn my back on the club’.
“I’ve invested a lot of time into this club and I didn’t want to leave it in the lurch. It has been a really difficult summer with the things that have gone off-the-field.
“What we’re really focusing is making sure everything is right, both on-and-off-the-field. Coming up to the start of the season, what is important to us that we’re ready, we’re organised and we keep the excellent fanbase that we had last season.
“The work behind the scenes that has gone on has been fantastic. The likes of Phil Smith, Gaby (Watson), Pete Watson, Lee Broadbent, Steve Hanks, John Hirst, Stuart Garside, the list goes on because they are so many people who have stood and been counted.
“Everyone has said ‘let’s keep pushing the club forward’.
“As a collective everyone has turned the club around, it is not down to just one person. In a collective it is about the team. That’s one thing the club is built on. A collective coming together.”
Welsh was speaking after Ossett’s comfortable 6-2 victory over Selby Town on Tuesday night.
A result and performance he was pleased. Ossett were leading 3-0 at one point and Selby did pull it back to 3-2, but Welsh was unconcerned.
He said: “Frustrated? Not at all.
“From our point of view, it was a great workout. Players need the minutes. The goals they got came at a time when we had made quite a few changes.
“Naturally that is going to disrupt things. When you get to the league games, you’re not going to be making that number of substitutions.
“I thought the lads were excellent. They worked really hard. We were more than in control of the game, from start to finish.
“I thought the players who came on took us that extra level. It was a hot night, there was rain and there were a few tired lads when 65/70 minutes had gone so the lads who came on took us back to the level where we wanted to be.”
So far Ossett have had a testing pre-season schedule. FA Trophy winners AFC Fylde, Hemsworth Miners Welfare and Selby have visited Ingfield in the past 11 days.
Clashes with Harrogate Town and BetVictor giants South Shields are to come and Welsh admits he wanted Ossett to face difficult fixtures.
“We play Harrogate on Thursday because we missed out on playing Farsley last week so we’ll be catching up on the minutes then,” he said.
“We want to get the players up to a certain level of fitness. That’s important. That’s why you saw some players get more minutes than others (against Selby).
“With some of the friendlies we have already played and in the games coming up, the players have and are being tested to the limit.
“You look at the AFC Fylde game, we were really pushing them for 90 minutes. It was 2-1 until the last few minutes when Kurt Willoughby scored to make it 3-1. I’ve no doubt that Fylde will be up at the top of the National League this year.
“We’re certainly in that area of ‘we want to challenge the players in pre-season’. Getting the Fylde game and the South Shields game is really important to us.”
Ossett start their league campaign with a home clash with Mossley on August 17th.
A few players from last season have left, but key men such as Brett Souter, Marko Basic, Corey Gregory and Tom Greaves remain.
In addition, United have signed former Farsley Celtic striker Damian Reeves, Nick Guest, Luke Porritt and Stuart Mott.
United reached the play-offs last season, but Welsh is keeping his cards to his chest on his hopes for 2020.
“I think what we want to do is set off the season and see where we are after ten games,” he said.
“We have a very good squad that is going to fight for each other, but there is a lot of work still to be done.
“I don’t want to set any targets. We want to be competitive. The league has also changed again so we’re playing a lot of the teams we played when I was the Albion manager. So we do know a lot of the teams.
“It was difficult last season because you were going to places like Carlton and Marske and you were having to do a lot of homework because you didn’t know much about them.
“In the end it gets to a stage where you just worry about ourselves.
“We expect it to be a competitive league this year and we’re not shouting from the rooftops saying we’re going to do this and that.
“There’ll be a few teams who will have spent money. Last year I’d been given the heads up on Morpeth and they had been spending big money.
“It wasn’t a shock that they won it. They had Davie Carson who was at Sunderland as a young kid when I was there. He’s ended up playing for Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Players like him make a difference at this level.”