New Frickley Athletic manager James Baxendale begins planning for next season

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​New Frickley Athletic manager James Baxendale has hit the ground running in his bid to lead the club to an improved campaign in 2024-25.

​After a promising start to the season just finished the Blues faded after Christmas to finish in 15th place in the NCE Premier Division and manager Pat McGuire was relieved of his duties.

Athletic have now turned to former Pontefract Collieries coach and player Baxendale as the new boss and he has been joined at the club by assistant manager Matthew Flanagan and coach Andrew Steptoe.

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He initially came through the ranks at Leeds United where he spent 10 years in the academy before signing as a first year pro at Doncaster Rovers.

New Frickley Athletic manager James Baxendale is already on with plans for next season.New Frickley Athletic manager James Baxendale is already on with plans for next season.
New Frickley Athletic manager James Baxendale is already on with plans for next season.

He made his professional debut for Doncaster in the Championship before moving on to Walsall, where he played for the bulk of his career. He later had spells at Mansfield and for Orange County in the USL in America.

Upon his return to England, James moved into non-league with spells at Alfreton, Worksop, Sheffield FC and Ponte Colls.

His coaching career began at Worksop and then at Pontefract, where he was first team coach for a number of years and picked up a good schooling he hopes will stand him in good stead at Westfield Lane.

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He became first team manager at Armthorpe Welfare last season, alongside Flanagan and Steptoe, and took them from the foot of the NCE Division One table, without a single player in the squad, to a comfortable league finish.

Keanan Mannings has committed to another year with Frickley. Athletic.Keanan Mannings has committed to another year with Frickley. Athletic.
Keanan Mannings has committed to another year with Frickley. Athletic.

Baxendale is already on with setting about the task of putting together a competitive squad for the challenge ahead with several signings and player retentions confirmed.

Striker Rob Guilfoyle became the first signing for the 2024/25 season after previously playing for Hull City and having spells with Marske United, Bradford Park Avenue and Pontefract Collieries.

"Delighted to have signed ‘Gilly’ and welcome him to the club,” said Baxendale.

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"He was someone that was a priority for me once I took the job as I have worked with him at a number of clubs over the last few years and I know what he can do.

"He is a natural finisher who can score every type of goal from any sort of range and will be a constant threat to every defence he comes up against.

"We have a good relationship off the pitch and the stars have aligned for us to work together this year and give him a home where he can enjoy his football and have the platform to show what he can do week in week out.”

Guilfoyle will be joined at Westfield Lane by midfielder Jack Varley, who has arrived from Armthorpe after spells in the NCE with Barton and Winterton, where he won promotion in the 2022/23 season.

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“Jack is a natural leader,” explained Baxendale. “He is a player who holds the highest standards and brings the group up with him.

"A constant goal threat who will no doubt excite the fans with his power and ball carrying ability. His character and experience in having won this league before will be massive for us and it’s a pleasure to be working with him again.”

Young left-back Harley McCormack is another to follow the manager from Armthorpe, after previously being part of the Ponte Colls U23s squad that went unbeaten last season.

“Harley has a massive future ahead of him and I’m excited to see how far he can progress this season,” said Baxendale.

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"He was a player I worked closely with last year and someone who has an infectious love for football.

"For someone of such a young age, he plays with a real maturity and soaks up all the information given to him. A great left foot and a goal threat too, I’m sure he’ll quickly endear himself to the supporters.”

Pacy forward Luke Williams will once again be working with the Frickley boss after doing well for him at Armthorpe on dual registration from Winterton.

“Luke is a proven goalscorer at this level and the one above,” commented Baxendale. "His explosive pace and ball carrying ability means he always has defenders on the back foot and can stretch the game for us.”

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The Blues have further added to their squad with the signings of Callum Brook and Louis Thwaites.

Big centre-half Brook started his career in Chesterfield’s academy before moving to Pontefract Collieries where he was a key player in the 2021/22 season, including playing in their FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie away at FC Halifax.

​Midfielder Thwaites has plenty of NPL and NCE experience after playing for Sheffield FC, Maltby Main, Rossington Main, Goole and Retford FC.

“Callum is someone that I’ve worked with for a number of years and have built up a great relationship and trust with,” added Baxendale.

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"He is exactly the type of character I build my teams around which is massive for me on and off the pitch.

“Louis is a real talent who we are really looking forward to working closely with this season and allow him to unlock all the ability he has.

"A midfielder who is strong in all departments and has an eye for goal, he’s exactly the type of player I like to work with. He wanted to be part of the club and get involved with what we are trying to achieve and we are over the moon to have him here.”

Wide attacker with an eye for goal Harry Spooner and midfielder Nana Nyarko are further signings set to bolster the new manager’s squad, but Wade Ripley has left.

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A number of players have committed to the Blues for another year, however, after playing for the club last season, including attacker Josh Haigh, defender or midfielder Lewis Binns, midfielder Keanan Mannings, goalkeeper Callum Bradbury and full-back Zav Elkin.

Frickley have confirmed a number of pre-season friendlies, beginning with a trip to play Thorne Colliery on Friday, July 5.

Four games follow on home turf against Sheffield FC (Tuesday, July 9); Emley AFC (Friday, July 12); Brighouse Town (Tuesday, July 16); and Pontefract Collieries (Friday, July 19).

The Blues will also take on Nostell MW away on Tuesday, July 23.