Atherton Colls boss Brad Cooke has signed a two-year contract extension to keep him at the Skuna Stadium until at least the summer of 2023.

The manager – himself a former Colls player – follows four of his squad who have also put pen to paper and confirmed they would stay with the club for the coming campaign.

Cooke took the helm in December 2019 following the departure of Michael Clegg to Ashton United and couldn’t be happier with the way things are going.

He said: “When I got the Colls job, it was a bit of a dream come true with me playing so many games for the club and captaining the side for so many years.

“The town of Atherton is a huge part of my life and has been for as long as I can remember.

“My kids go to school here, I’ve lived in and around here for near enough all of my life and I’ve got loads of friends within the town.

“Considering all of that, to be able to sign a two-year contract and have the confidence from the board to allow me to carry on what I have started here is brilliant.

“I’m so proud to be Atherton Collieries manager and I can’t wait to continue the good work.”

Though he has been in the job for 16 months now, Cooke is yet to complete a full season in the dugout as the coronavirus pandemic has cut short the last two seasons of the Northern Premier League.

He and his management team have already set the wheels in motion ahead of the next campaign starting in August, and the manager says that he has a clear vision for the future.

He said: “I want to progress year on year and we’re already doing that by improving both on the pitch and off it constantly.

“At the end of these two years, if we’re in a better position than we are now – not just results driven – as a club as a whole, then I’d be absolutely delighted.

“We want to stabilise ourselves as a Northern Premier League side on the pitch, but I’ve got ambitions wider than the matchday stuff too.

“I want to push myself and push the club as far as we possibly can go.”

Cooke’s side are set to return to action soon with pre-season fixtures to be confirmed in the near future.

Defenders Niall Battersby, Clive Smith and namesake Rick Smith will all be with the Black and Whites’ squad when they meet up again, as will long-time servant Gaz Peet, the quartet having all put pen to paper for the 2021-22 campaign.

Aside from short spells with Nelson and Skelmersdale United, full-back Peet has been a mainstay for Colls since his debut in August 2010 and is now the record appearance holder at the club with 314 in competitive games.

Gaz Peet in action for Atherton Colls. Picture; Dave Featherstone

Gaz Peet in action for Atherton Colls. Picture; Dave Featherstone

He said: “We’ve come so far as a club over the last decade or so and it’s an unbelievable achievement by all involved.

“Everyone here has been on that journey and there’s not enough words to express my gratitude for that, we’re three divisions away from playing league football but we’re still Colls and it’s hard to sum up.

“I’m hoping that I’ve got a couple more years left in me on the pitch yet and I want to get to 350 appearances as soon as possible as a little goal for myself.

“Eventually, I want to go into coaching to help develop and bring young lads through into the game.

“Hopefully, I can do that with Colls and carry on the journey that we’re on, that’s definitely my ambition.”

Throughout his time at the Skuna Stadium, Peet has won three league titles and four cup competitions, many of which came alongside former team-mate and now manager Cooke.

With the recent European Super League fiasco at the top of the game still fresh in the mind, boss Cooke expressed his excitement at getting four members of his backline signed on ahead of an August 14 restart in the Northern Premier League’s Premier Division.

He said: “We’re absolutely delighted to get these lads over the line after what has been a really challenging few months for the football club.

“For them to agree to stay is a real compliment to the club as a whole, especially with offers from elsewhere which have been turned down.

“I think it goes to show that happiness coupled with the right environment can still win over money, which is ironic after the events of the last few days.”