SEVENTEEN years ago I went on a pub crawl through the centre of my home town of Radcliffe.

I say town centre, really just one road less than half a mile long and straddled by shops, businesses and 10 pubs.

Eight of those pubs – and bare with me, I'll come to the sport bit eventually – have since closed down with three of them still having been empty for years.

If Radcliffe is known for anything now it's probably for having an Asda.

Ask those who live outside – or even inside the town – for reasons why people come in and I'd venture going to Asda would be high and pretty lonely at the top.

Where Bury town centre and the borough's other districts of Ramsbottom, Tottington, Prestwich and Whitefield look to be doing pretty well for themselves, Radcliffe has always seemed to me to be the black sheep of a family that disowned them long ago.

It has no obvious identity and, apart from a lot of houses and barber's shops, nothing that really stands out.

People don't go in for a night's drinking or afternoon's shopping and there is a distinct lack of anything approaching attractions.

Having lived there for 29 years I want to be proud of Radcliffe, but it's not easy.

However, Radcliffe Football Club are doing their best to change that.

Four wins in their last four league games and seven unbeaten in Evo-Stik West have seen them climb to third place.

Last Saturday they beat the league leaders, Atherton Collieries, and if they win their games in hand they will go top – a far cry from last season when they were languishing at the wrong end of the table.

But it is not just what they are doing on the field that is impressive, but how they handle themselves in general.

They suffered a terrible tragedy this week when long-time popular club photographer Peter Lee died in a car crash on his way back from Tuesday night's game.

Everyone at the club was naturally shocked and stunned by the tragedy. In my job covering sport I have to deal with people in such situations to ensure the correct tone, context and perspective are given to stories.

To say Radcliffe FC handled the situation exceptionally is an understatement.

It wasn't just what they did, but how they did it, and the care they clearly had for Peter shone through.

Manager Jon Macken spoke of "the Radcliffe FC family" and of sticking together", and said the club would do all they could to show their respect for Peter at today's home game, including holding a minute's silence.

I also spoke to the chairman and captain, who not only made themselves available during a devastating time but oozed class in doing so.

It is that kind of quality which is underpinning a resurgence in fortunes for Radcliffe FC on the field and off it where they are building partnerships with sponsors and have joined forces with the town's junior football club.

They are a part of the community and the community is responding by going watching games.

Home league attendances this season are almost all around the 260 mark – not many some might say, but it is almost exactly double what they were getting last season.

Under Hilton and ambitious owners the club has its long-term sights set on climbing the divisions.

It always helps if you have a name in charge and last season they brought in former Manchester City player Macken.

It has proved a successful move and also a clever one as there is no shortage of City fans in Radcliffe.

Another big name is ex-Chelsea player Frank Sinclair as assistant manager, and they recently boosted their backroom team by recruiting Karl Marginson who managed FC United of Manchester for 12 years until just over a year ago.

Like the stock market, football clubs' fortunes can go down as well as up and this may just be a temporary peak in Boro's fortunes before normality resumes.

But, on behalf of the good people of Radcliffe, I'd like to thank Messrs Hilton, Macken and the owners for putting a bit of pride into the town at last.