BRAD Cooke thought he’d seen just about everything during his time as a player and manager.

But the Atherton Collieries boss admits recent events at the club are new to him.

While Colls still battle to stay in the BetVictor League Premier Division they still have interest in two cup competitions, but an outbreak of mumps has decimated his squad.

The epidemic caused Colls to contact the county’s FA and have them call off their LFA County Cup semi-final against Lancaster City in midweek.

And the club’s popular former captain says it is typical of how their luck has been recently.

“We had six lads go down with it, which just about sums up the way it’s been going for us in the last month,” he told The Bolton News. “Everything that could go wrong for us has done. We had the mumps outbreak, one of my coaches has gone down with it as well, it’s been absolutely horrific.

“We had four down for last Saturday’s game at FC United but [postponement meant] we got away with it there, but three more came down it between Sunday and Monday so we had to do something about the semi-final.

“We’ve quarantined those coming down with it, we’ve not trained as we would normally do once a game is off. Five were told not to come to training on Thursday, so we’ve not been able to do too much.”

Postponing the Lancaster semi-final did not sit well with their opposition manager, former Ramsbottom boss Mark Fell.

Fell felt the match should have gone ahead regardless of the exceptional circumstances.

“I am not happy about it,” said the Dolly Blues manager. “I know the people at Atherton really well, I know the manager Brad Cooke really well. Brad came to me and told me what was happening and it is a really difficult situation.

“They have known about this since Friday, so why have they not gone out and signed a load of new players?

“I do have sympathy, but my job is to get the best outcome for Lancaster City and I think the game should be played.”

Cooke remained unperturbed by the lack of empathy shown by his opposite number, however, adding: “Apart from anything else, the last thing Lancaster City need is to have an outbreak and we had five or six out at that point. And it’s not as simple as going out and signing a load of new players. I don’t know if Mark had his tongue in his cheek when he said that.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, nor have any of the lads. It’s been tough but it’s been hilarious at times, some people have got it in the neck, others in the cheeks, there’s been nothing we could do about it, we’ve had to laugh at it, it’s been a crazy time but we’ve been transparent about it throughout.”

A new date has been announced for the final-four game. Colls will finally face Lancaster at the county headquarters in Leyland on March 11. They have also squeezed their Integro League Cup game at home to Stalybridge into a packed fixture list, scheduling the tie for March 3.

And Cooke has made some more-than useful additions to his squad to prepare for a hectic run-in as Colls look to use their league games in hand – up to five on some sides – to get clear of the second-bottom place they occupy ahead of today’s fixture at Basford United.

“We’ve got 18 games left in the league and we’re in two cup competitions so the last thing we could do with are call-offs,” said Cooke, who played 265 games for the club. “I knew it was going to be tough when I came in, I think there’d only been three or four wins. We got off to a great start, taking 13 points from six games.

“But we lost a few players, some had their heads turned and went elsewhere, which you’d expect, but it coincided with us having a few injuries and suspensions and lads being away because their babies were being born.

“It’s been difficult but you learn a lot about people when the chips are down and I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen.

“We’ve brought in two young, hungry lads, Cain Noble and Iwan Murray, from Chester on short-term loans and Jamal Crawford, who plays out wide, on a dual-registration from Curzon Ashton.

“We’ve got a deal to bring in Matty Makinson over the line, he’s a great prospect too. So we’ve strengthened in good areas and they’ll provide stiff competition for places. We’re focusing on the challenge ahead now.”

For more information on Colls' bid to remain in the BetVictor League's Premier Division, and to keep up to date with news, results, fixtures and the latest standings, visit the official website HERE