Back at the beginning of the 2013/14 season I began to interview the players at West Didsbury & Chorlton as I aimed to create new content for both the website and programme ahead of the new season in the NWCFL Premier Division.
The first player I ever interviewed was utility man Alex Baird following his return to the squad following serious injury. ‘Bairdy’ remained at West until the beginning of the 2015/16 where a move to Stratford-Upon-Avon saw him join Coleshill Town before taking the managers hot seat at Southam United. Baird has recently joined Heather St. John’s as assistant manager and will bring his side to Brookburn Road on July 15th as part of the pre-season preparation.
The club has obviously come a long way since this first interview with both Alex Baird and the club going from strength-t0-strength. I’ve included the original interview below:
For Alex Baird West’s 2012/13 promotion and 1st Division Trophy winning season won’t be remembered as well for him as for others as he spent the majority of the season side-lined by injury. However after missing the incredible run in last season, Alex returned to the starting line up on the opening day of the season at home to AFC Liverpool. He took the time to discuss it.
Since you joined West in 2011 how has the club transformed (both on and off the field? The club are trying to do things differently, with the vision being sustainable football for all and to develop a long term youth strategy. Is this something that has registered with the players?
The club has developed fantastically; we have had the clubhouse extension and new changing rooms as well as developments in the squad. Andy has brought in players that have played at the top levels of non-league players like Lee Shillito, Steve Settle and Gareth Thomas. Add that with the young players coming through we have a great squad. It has registered with us we have a great setup and the work that Andy has done by bringing young players to the squad and utilising the reserve team can only strengthen us going forward and by blending the young players with the experienced lads it can only bode well for the future of the club.
You have an impressive resume of clubs having previously played at Leek CSOB, Winsford United, Congleton Town and Stone Dominoes. How does the setup at West compare to those clubs?
Stone dominoes had a fantastic setup with a full time groundsman the pitch was like a bowling green which is unheard of at this level of football. They had a strong affiliation with Stoke City and Port Vale so we benefited greatly. West Didsbury are going in that direction by buying land next door for the youth development and also planning to build another stand on the main pitch we are moving forward and the lads can see that we are part of something good. We have great banter and we all work together which was shown by our run in last season when we were beating teams who have budgets for paying players. As players we get looked after well and to have the opportunity to go and play the IOM national team as a group was fantastic.
West developed a close rivalry with Abbey Hey last season and are our FA Cup opponents? Do you have any special memories from your time at Abbey Hey?
I enjoyed my time at Abbey Hey we had a group of players similar to the West Didsbury squad and we caused a few upsets because we were difficult to beat.
Have you any fond memories of playing in the FA Cup?
Yeah we did quite well in the FA Cup and FA Vase one season at Stone Dominoes and in the Vase we were 3 games away from Wembley. The fondest FA cup memory for me was scoring the winning goal for Stone in the 2nd qualifying round.
Last season; you were injured early on the year, came back, got yourself fit and back in the team before being carried off at Formby. Tell us about your injury? It must have been a frustrating time having just played your way back into the side and playing so well?
I’d been injured the previous season with ligament damage to my right ankle and I came back too soon last season 2012/2013 and I wasn’t at my best with a few other things going on in my life, I was frustrated by my own performances early last season which led to me speaking with Andy and making the decision to take a few months out and get sorted both physically and mentally. I then came back around New Year with a clear understanding of my role in the squad not necessarily the starting 11. I worked hard to get fit I kept my head down and listened. I changed my mindset and I came back stronger in all aspects.
I had to wait until late Feb to get back into the team against Holker away I played well in centre midfield and stayed in the team for the Formby game. That game was bitter sweet for me we were fantastic that night. I landed funnily from a headed challenge and I broke a bone in my left ankle aswell as damaging the medial and lateral ligaments at the same time. The specialist told me in the summer that I would need an operation on the ankle at some point in the future but at present I’m working with the physio and I can keep playing.
What was spending a Monday night in Southport hospital with Winston (the physio) like?
I’d love to be able to tell you but the gas and air was brilliant. However, Winston was great he spoke with the Dr whom must have got his qualification from the back of a Frosties box as they wanted to operate that night then didn’t then they said I may not play again and after much too-ing and fro-ing I was on my crutches in nothing but my Under Armour on my way home.
Professional footballers get time off to put their feet up, rest and heal but you were back in work after a couple of days.
Work were great I worked from home for the 1st 2 days then I got trains to and from work which was a 3.5 hour round trip but they did give me time off for specialists appointments and physio. Like you say we aren’t pro’s so we have to combine playing and training with our jobs and injuries do happen.
I’ve seen you on the end of some particularly grueling looking massages. How have the club physios helped you with your recovery?
All the club physiotherapists have been great they helped me get back to full fitness by with structured rehab and working other muscle groups too. Andy was great also by not pushing me too hard and allowing me to recover at my own pace. Some managers would rush you back but Andy talked with the physios and took a steer from them.
I worked hard in the close season and started running in late May. I went away for a week to my see my mum and dad in the South of France and started gradually stepping up my distance and pace. I didn’t try and rush back I’m not 18 anymore and there were a few frustrating times on the way. Then when we came back in Andy, Steve Settle and Lee Robinson had prepared a great set of sessions for us and we have all reaped the rewards. I feel the fittest I have in a long time.
The hard work paid off as, despite the competition for places during preseason, you were in the starting line up at centre back for the season opener against AFC Liverpool.
I had done OK in pre-season and I was happy to be in the team as it felt all the work I had done had paid off. We are a squad rather than just a team so I know that I have to work hard to keep my shirt as we have some great players all wanting to play. I know that some matches I will miss out but we are a squad and if the management team think I add something then great.
You were awarded man of the match on the day; did Andy Nelson say anything to you after the game?
Yes Andy came up to me and told me well done! I was pleased to get the award from the management team but we were all disappointed at the result after playing so well as a team in the 2nd half. I would have preferred the win for the team over the MOM but I was happy with my performance.
Finally, have you got a printable Isle of Man story?
I’d have to say Anthony Potts starting all the lads singing the home and away theme tune after a few beers on the bus on the way to Douglas for a night out after the national team game. I don’t think the locals knew what to make of us and that’s saying something!