AT the end of a sorry season of woe for Atherton LR new manager Dave Jones insists they have sunk as low as they can go and there is only one direction they can now go.

Rovers have chopped and changed manager throughout the season but one thing remained constant – their position propping up First Division North.

And now their campaign has come to a close with a 5-0 defeat at home to Bacup Borough, incoming boss Jones is promising a complete overhaul in his bid to bring the smiles back to Crilly Park.

LR averaged less than a goal a game and shipped more than three-and-a-half this term, and Jones admits he could not stay quiet as he ran the rule over the squad during Saturday’s final act.

“I just went along on Saturday to have a look but I just had to go in and have a few words with them at half time,” he told The Bolton News.

“They were only 2-0 down but I had to tell a number of them while I applaud their commitment in taking it through to the end of the season there were going to be changes. After what I witnessed on Saturday it will be the last time a lot of players will be playing for this club.

“The circumstances surrounding the club in the last few years have meant it’s been so difficult because of the instability. I’ve spoken to past players who just didn’t want to come back but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Right now I have nearly 30 players who’ve said they want to be involved in pre-season, which we’ll look to whittle down to about 24, and there are still some who have been here before and are good quality players I’ll look to bring back. I’ve been away from the area for a while but I’ve kept in touch with football people around here and we’re looking to rebuild a relationship with the fans, who have had nothing to smile about in the last few years.”

While their neighbours Atherton Collieries have gone from strength to strength, cash-strapped LR have floundered. They expect to find out at the end of the month if they will retain their place in the Hallmark Security League but whichever division they are to compete in, Jones says they will be a markedly different prospect.

There is no doubting his confidence, either. The former Manchester United trainee has plied his trade around the globe as a player, including stints in the MLS with New York Metrostars – now New York Red Bulls – and in Hong Kong. Closer to home he has represented Tranmere, Chester, Stockport and Altrincham as well as Welsh side TNS and Kettering, where he became non-league football’s youngest manager.

Jones, who has also coached successfully at Leigh RMI, Chester and Castleton Gabriels (bringing Clayton Blackmore and Kevin Francis to the North West Counties side) and managed the USA women’s armed forces side at the Military Olympics, is under no illusions about the task facing him at Atherton, but remains steadfastly confident he can turn around the ailing club, with the backing of new chairman Shaun Lynch and secretary Andy Harrison. Caretaker boss Ricardo Costa, who Jones says did a fine job keeping things going with players he feels are not up to the required standard, will join his coaching team. But with finances at an all-time low he is hoping businesses will come forward to join this new revolution.

“I’m aware of the situation at the club,” he added. “We have got to rise from the ashes now, it’s an opportunity to put everything behind us and start heading in the right direction.

“I’m quietly confident, even at this stage. I’m confident the players I’ve earmarked will be around for the big kick off which I can’t wait for.

“I’ve never finished lower than fourth in any season as a manager, I intend to have a disciplined team where everyone knows their roles and and are clear about what’s expected of them.

“I’m well aware this is probably the most poisoned of chalices in non-league football. Hats off to Cleggy and his lads [at Colls] they have done the town proud, so we have to try to match that.

“We might not have the best players in the league but we’ll definitely be much harder to beat. I want to rid the club of its toxic atmosphere and get the stability and pride back. It’s been like a soap opera but there are encouraging signs.”

n Any local firms looking to get involved with sponsorships are asked to call LR’s new manager on 07958 352759.