CRAIG Allardyce admits he missed the rough and tumble of non-league football – and he’s ready for a full season of grassroots drama.

The 46-year-old former professional footballer helped Turton escape relegation from the West Lancashire League Premier Division last season after answering an SOS from chairman Peter Gray with 10 games to go.

Allardyce, son of ex-Bolton manager Sam Allardyce, has signed up to lead them in the 2022/23 campaign – more than a decade after managing them in the final throws of his playing days.

“I’ve been out of it for a while– I’ve always supported the club from afar,” he said. “They’ve been doing so well in recent years but this year they had an indifferent season.

“I was in the States and Pete rang me to say the manager had gone and said ‘keep your Saturdays free for the rest of the season, will you?’

“It was just great to get involved again. Just being around the lads, all the banter, in the dressing room, the social side of it – I know it’s a cliché, but I had missed it.

“But the pressure was on and we absolutely needed to stay in the division. And I did feel that pressure.”

Turton won four of their final nine games under Allardyce – including notable wins at Euxton Villa and Hurst Green - to set up a do-or-die finale at Poulton where a defeat of four goals or more would have seen Turton drop into Division One.

A 0-0 draw sealed their place for another season – and convinced Allardyce to give it a go permanently after a chaotic year for Turton which saw the journeyman become their third manager of the season.

And he saw enough to ensure he will enjoy his return to the dugout.

“When we came in, they responded immediately and we won 3-1 away at Hurst Green in our first game,” said Allardyce, who will be assisted by Josh McGreavy. “Hurst Green were in the top four I think at the time.

“I said to the lads afterwards ‘that’s the standard, right there, I want nothing less’. But we had a few draws and defeats after that frustratingly.

“Winning our last home game was a big one – we hadn’t won at home all season before that – so we put that to bed and we just went to Poulton on that final day knowing what we had to do. We got over the line, thankfully.”

Now his attention turns to the 2022/23 determined to avoid a season of struggle – but he takes a pragmatic approach to Step Seven football.

“I’m not going to put any targets on it,” insisted Allardyce, who has two grown-up children and now works in business finance.

“When I was 32 and went to Turton first time I had been used to the professional game and got frustrated easily.

“But you’ve got to take a step back and realise we’re not pros – we’re amateurs. People can’t always get to training. They don’t pass it where you think it should be passed.

“You speak to any manager in any league at any level and they will say they are looking to bring in a few players to strengthen the squad. And that’s what we are looking to do.

“We want to play a bit of footy with our mates – obviously I want to finish top half and I don’t have any concerns we’ll be near the bottom again.

“But if at the end of the season, we’ve done ourselves justice and enjoyed it along the way, with a bit of success, I’ll be happy too.”

While his days of taxiing kids around on Saturdays are over - “the wife is probably happy to get me out of the house too,” he adds - Allardyce may have some family around on matchdays.

“My dad came to watch our Hospital Cup first round match which we lost on penalties,” he said.

“I just wish he had come to watch one of the games where we had played like we can!”

Andy Mason, a former professional footballer with Bolton and Hull City, and Matt Kirkpatrick will lead Turton’s reserve side this season joining from Atherton Collieries.