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Our story so far

Runcorn Linnets named Antony Kay as first team boss ahead of the 2024-25 season, the club’s most experienced player hanging up his boots after a long and distinguished on-field career to take up his first managerial post. Linnets are vowing to recover from the double disappointment of again falling in the Pitching In Northern Premier League West Promotion Play-offs and the ensuing departure of manager Billy Paynter. Antony, 41,was announced as boss on May 18th 2024 after serving as senior player under Paynter in the 2023-24 season. The veteran of 800 professional games with his native Barnsley, Tranmere Rovers, Huddersfield Town, MK Dons, Bury and Port Vale, ‘Kaysey’ is a three-time former EFL League One promotion winner and a UEFA A coach. His task now is to help Runcorn build on strong recent progress. Linnets have achieved a high level of consistency since rising to Step 4 for 2018-19 with top-six finishes in each of our four completed campaigns. The highest of these came last season, when we came second to NPL West champions Leek Town. However, for a third successive campaign, promotion hopes ended in the Play-offs – a 2-0 semi-final defeat at home to City of Liverpool following on from losses in finals against Marine and Workington. This latest setback, in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,600, prompted Billy Paynter’s resignation three days later. The blow of again missing out on a place in the NPL Premier Division weighed too heavily on the well-respected former EFL forward, who had been on the APEC Taxis Stadium scene for almost two years. Billy had taken on the manager’s role in the last eight weeks of 2022-23. He stepped up from the first-team coach’s position upon the dismissal of former Mossley manager and ex-Matlock Town assistant Dave WIld, who had only taken charge of Linnets in summer 2022. Things could easily have spiralled out of control with major disruption at such a crucial time but Billy called on all his professional-game experience to swiftly put things back on track. After falling to Vanarama National League club Altrincham in the Cheshire Cup semi-finals, we also found ourselves up against higher-grade opposition in the Liverpool FA Senior Cup final. Backed by a magnificent following of 1,500 fans, Runcorn were beaten on penalties by NPL Premier outfit, Marine at Widnes (after a 0-0 scoreline over 90 minutes). The Crosby club had already edged out Linnets in the 2021-22 promotion race by winning the Play-off Final 2-1 at the APEC. The corresponding 2022-23 final followed a similar pattern, although we were this time the away side. We took an early lead at Workington, just as we had against the Mariners 12 months earlier, before again succumbing by the odd goal in three. But this time it took extra-time to separate the teams in only the eighth match as manager for Billy Paynter, who had arrived at Linnets in summer of 2022. At the end of the 2021-22 season, the club had said fond farewells to manager Calum McIntyre as he left to take command at Chester FC. His final match in charge of Runcorn had been the Play-off Final against Marine, which took the aggregate attendance in 12 years at Linnets' stadium past 100,000. The all-ticket tie sold out. It was a delight to have been able to complete the season after two Covid-curtailed campaigns. In his 22 months at the club, Calum had forged a strong bond with Linnets. A key element in his management/coaching strategy and playing style had been our hybrid pitch. It was installed in summer of 2020, Linnets having been chosen to take part in the second phase of Sport England's hybrid carpet pilot programme. The project, also in conjunction with the Football Foundation, Premier League, The Football Association and Cheshire FA, involved the laying of a surface comprising 95% natural grass, growing through and intertwined with the grass fibre carpet. It is for club and community use. Another significant happening in the 2020 close season had involved the departures of Linnets' long-serving management team of boss Michael Ellison and assistant Matt Cross plus the retirement through injury of influential player and club captain, Kyle Hamid. Only Matt Atherton (313) has made more appearances than Kyle's 261 with Michael Ellison, Mark Houghton and Rob Whyte the only other double century makers. (Our appearance figures include games played in the seasons abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic, although playing records for these two campaigns have been officially expunged). ‘Ello’ and ‘Crossy’ had been in charge since summer 2016 after both playing for the club and they were assured of legendary status at Linnets on account of their on-field service and managerial achievement in bringing the club its first championship success. They also oversaw Runcorn's first two seasons in the NPL after promotion as North West Counties League Premier Division title winners of 2017-18 - Linnets putting the disappointment of multiple near misses firmly behind us. After three runners-up finishes in the previous four seasons, promotion was finally clinched on April 28th 2018 on the 12th anniversary of the club's foundation. The title was secured on May 3rd 2018 with a 5-0 home victory over Blackpool-based Squires Gate. This long-awaited league crown was captured with two matches to spare and 100 points – a club record 122 league goals being scored over the 44 games with 36 conceded. The club enjoyed a very creditable introduction to Northern Premier League life in 2018-19 as members of its West Division. This was the only NPL programme, which Linnets were able to complete (because of coronavirus) until 2021-22, when we eventually missed out on a play-off spot on goals difference. For the two aborted seasons, Linnets had competed in the North West Division after geographical reorganisation. But on the creation three seasons ago of a third NPL division at Step 4, we reverted to membership of the West Division. Linnets have come a long way since being founded in 2006 by supporters of former national non-league champions, Runcorn AFC after a traumatic end for the old club. The initial aims had been to bring the successor Linnets back to Runcorn and establish the club as one of which the community could be proud. Both these ambitions were achieved with the club still in its infancy. The stadium, in the Murdishaw area of Runcorn, opened in 2010 with the project having been supported by Halton Borough Council, the FA and the Football Foundation as well as the club and its fans. Winter 2017 saw the completion of a replacement £1.4 million clubhouse as part of wider redevelopment of surrounding land with retail and leisure facilities. At the same time, pitches outside the stadium were fenced in for use by the Linnets' numerous junior teams with the club also signing a new long-term lease with Halton Council for the extended site. Runcorn Linnets Football Club was born after Runcorn AFC had intimated it would not be in a position to field a team beyond the end of 2005-06 season. Upon leaving town in 2001, the now defunct club had suffered a troubled and nomadic existence. Fans met at their spiritual home in Canal Street – at the then Quayside Bar and Function Rooms, next to the Linnets Park housing estate on which Runcorn AFC's ground had once stood. An existing Supporters Trust was remodelled to run Runcorn Linnets, whose identity was derived from Runcorn AFC's nickname. The new club spent its first four years playing home games as tenants of Witton Albion FC at Wincham Park, Northwich - gaining promotion at the first attempt to the top division of the North West Counties League under the management of Steve Carragher, who had been the predecessor club's last team boss. Victory against Formby in the NWCL Challenge Cup final in 2012-13 brought a first winners' trophy for the first team. Former Runcorn AFC player, Joey Dunn was the then manager. Paul McNally is another "old boy" of the original club to have managed the new with Steve Wilkes at the time of his appointment being the only manager not to have had any previous Linnets connections. Calum McIntyre, Dave Wild and Billy Paynter have since joined that particular "club". ‘Wilkesey’ in 2009 led Linnets to our first ever final, only to be beaten to the NWCL Challenge Cup by New Mills at Tameside Stadium, also scene of the club's triumph in the same competition four years later.

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