EAGLEY believe they are slowly but surely heading in the right direction after a difficult five years on and off the field.

The Dunscar men currently sit in mid-table in the West Lancashire League Division One, a far cry from the halcyon days of the recent past when they were one of the top teams in the league.

Under previous manager Paul Marriott they finished in the top four in the Premier League for five successive years up to 2012/2013.

That last season was one of the most successful in the club’s history when they won the treble of the Lancashire Shield, Hospital Cup and the Premier League’s Richardson Cup.

There was even talk at the time of Eagley possibly trying to make the move up into the non-league bracket.

Finances and facilities were not conducive to such ambitious plans anyway, and Marriott’s departure at the end that season, followed by a number of players making their way through the exit door, was the start of leaner times at the club on the field.

They struggled at the wrong end of the Premier Division for a couple of seasons before being relegated into Division One where they have been since.

Last weekend’s 4-2 defeat at second-bottom Askam United was an indication of how times have changed at Eagley.

But while they do not look like being promoted this season, they also look to be more than well-equipped to remain in the division.

Despite their fortunes on the field, they have had a fruitful few years behind the scenes and are looking ahead to the future with optimism and confidence.

And if there is one thing they have learned over the last few years it is patience.

With money tight there was never going to be a quick way back up to the Premier Division.

Player-manager Simon Whaley – who played more than 200 games as a professional, mostly for Bury and Preston – is ensuring the side remain competitive while they continue to build for the future.

And he brought the club their biggest success for several years last season when he led them to Hospital Cup glory with a victory in the final at Wanderers’ then Macron Stadium.

A link-up with the Eagley cricket and tennis clubs to form Eagley Sports Complex [ESC] has strengthened the overall set-up.

They have an impressively-refurbished clubhouse, a full set of new goalposts are on their way and the club has plans for future improvements, but only within their financial reaches and with the hoped-for help of grants.

The head of the senior football section at ESC, Colin Whaley – Simon’s brother – said it was a slow process trying to get the football team back to the top, but one everyone at the club is working towards.

“We’ve changed things around quite a bit at the club in the last few years,” he said.

“We had a good team a few years ago but the club probably wasn’t in a position to keep it going.

“I’ve been doing this for four years now. I was just asked to come along to help out, as you do at any local club, and I just got hooked.

“It’s difficult because there are so many jobs that need doing.

“A big thing was getting together with the cricket and tennis clubs.

“I’m head of the senior football section and oversee all the football, Ian Bancroft is in charge of the junior football section, Danny Counsell heads the cricket and Steve Small heads the overall complex.

“We work well together, much more over the last year or so. It’s better being joined like this than working separately.

“Danny looks after the bar side of things for the complex. If we hadn’t come together all the sections would have to contribute towards running it, so it’s more efficient like this.

“There’s definitely more stability within the club now.

“Everyone pays into the same pot. We just need to kick on to that next level.

“The juniors are doing really well, the only downside is we cannot accommodate all the juniors at ESC so they play at Sharples School.

“Hopefully in the future we will be able to develop the ground so we can have our juniors playing on our ground.

“I am not happy we got relegated from the Premier Division, and it’s our target to get back, but it was coming because we hung on in there for a couple of seasons before going down.

“We are back on an even keel again with the clubhouse refurbished to a high standard and a new full set of goals on the way.

“We need to kick on now on the field. We want to get back in the Premier Division.

“The carrot with that, though, used to be getting linesmen but that’s gone now even in the Premier Division.

“It’s really bad that you only get one official in the Premier Division from this season. Clubs have to provide their own linesmen which can cause problems.

“At our club we have a good young lad who does it but he’s not always available every week, and when he’s not doing it we have to find someone else who’s not used to it.

“It’s far from ideal but it is what it is. The carrot for getting in the Premier Division always used to be you’ll get three officials.

“I don’t know what the answer is because there are not enough officials.

“The dream would be to get into the Premier Division and then move up to a higher standard, but then you need the facilities, floodlighting etc.

“Maybe in the future we might get a big grant and be able to do that and have one big new clubhouse and build grass and 3G pitches on our land and have the juniors play there too.

“That’s in the future but in the last few years definite progress has been made. It might not look that way in the league position but overall we’re moving forward.”