Big Interview: Alistair Waddecar reflects on a decade playing for Bamber Bridge
Craig Salmon talks to Alistair Waddecar about his decade-long stint at Bamber Bridge following his decision to move to FC United of Manchester
Alistair Waddecar laughs almost apologetically when he hears people refer to him as Bamber Bridge’s greatest ever player.
A fine talent on the pitch he may well be, but away from the confines of the playing area, the 30-year-old could be described as shy, unassuming and certainly self-effacing.
You get the feeling that he would have shook his head in modest amazement when news was relayed to him back in 2018 that he was named as the 11th best player to ever grace the Northern Premier League during a vote to celebrate the league’s 50th anniversary.
Courting the spotlight or grabbing headlines is certainly not Waddecar’s style, he’s just happy to let his feet do the talking.
It’s probably why over the past decade, he has spurned the offers of moving on to bigger clubs – instead he’s been more than intent on churning out top performance after top performance for Brig.
Since making his debut in his late teens, Waddecar has gone on to feature in more than 450 games for the club – the Covid-19 pandemic preventing him from topping 500 appearances.
He has helped the club to play-off finals, promotion, a cup win and relegation survival.
But after a decade of unstinting service, he has decided to call time on his Brig career – and seek a fresh challenge with FC United of Manchester.
Now into his fourth decade, Waddecar knows that it’s a case of now or never if he was to try his luck elsewhere.
Moving to the Red Rebels will certainly be an eye opener for Waddecar.
Accustomed to playing in front of 100 to 200 spectators at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium, FC United boast average attendances – Covid-19 dependent of course – of around the four-figure mark.
There will, however, be some familiar faces at the club, including manager Neil Reynolds – who he played alongside and under at Irongate, as well former Brig team-mates Michael Potts, Adam Dodd and Regan Linney.
Ironically, the laid-back lad was musing over the possibility of ending his football career for good this summer, especially after the nightmare of the coronavirus pandemic.
Having become a father for the first time – he and his wife Jessica welcomed seven-month-old Archie into the world late last year – Waddecar was contemplating focusing his attentions on golf where he is closing in on a single handicap.
However, the prospect of a fresh footballing challenge has re-ignited his fire – although he is keen to stress how much he has loved his time playing for Brig over the past decade.
“I just don’t want to have any regrets,” said Waddecar.
“I was actually thinking about whether to stop playing this summer because I’ve got really into golf.
“I was thinking about just going off and enjoying my golf.
“But then I just thought I am bit too young to stop and I didn’t want to regret it if I did stop.
“When the opportunity of going to FC United came up, I just thought let’s give it a go.
“I suppose I just wanted to test myself, play in front of a big crowd.
“They will be pushing for promotion and I think they will have a real shot at doing it.
“The last year, the last two seasons, it’s not been the best as it for everyone with the pandemic?
“So I just felt like I needed that change to give me that extra drive.
“But the past 10 years playing for Bamber Bridge – it’s been amazing.
“I have met so many good people who are still my close friends now and will be forever.
“All the players, the managers, the coaches, the staff at Bamber Bridge have been brilliant and I can’t thank them enough for the last 10 years.”
A Preston North End supporter, Waddecar revealed he has been like a kid in a sweet shop at times over the past decade.
Every year, the club plays a pre-season friendly against PNE at Irongate – where he has been able to go toe-to-toe with some of his heroes.
And that’s not to mention the fact that he has played alongside some of the Lilywhites’ best players in recent memory – Paul McKenna, Jon Macken and Brett Ormerod – who have all had spells at Irongate.
“I remember turning up for training one time and McKenna was there,” Waddecar recalled.
“Myself and Chris Marlow, who has been at Brig as long as me, we couldn’t believe it.
“McKenna was there practising free-kicks and stuff – Marlow was definitely getting a bit giddy.
“I remember being on a coach trip with Macken to an away game and we were talking about who is the best player you have played with or against.
“Macken just went, “Well I once played against Ronaldinho and Barcelona’.
“We were all like, ‘Oh right...I think we will end it on that note’!
“I think one of my most memorable games for Bamber Bridge was when I first joined.
“I came on against Preston – I think it was one of my first games for Brig.
“Being a big Preston fan, that was definitely one of my highlights. I did enjoy that game although when we played them every year as we did, I got a bit tired of chasing after the ball for 90 minutes against them. I didn’t enjoy that.
“We did once play a PNE legends team and that was good because I came up against players I had grown up watching, people like Sean Gregan and Lee Cartwright.”
While matches against North End are great for Waddecar to look back upon, the memory he will cherish the most is the serious business of helping Brig be successful.
Despite having one of the smallest budgets, Brig constantly defied the odds, striving for promotion year after year.
In both 2014 and 2015, they reached the NPL First Division North play-off final under Neil Crowe – heartbreakingly losing both games to Ramsbottom United and Darlington AFC.
It proved to be third time lucky three years later when they finally achieved promotion.
With Crowe’s assistant Reynolds having taken over, Brig defeated Prescot Cables 1-0 at Irongate in the play-off final.
“We finally did it at the third attempt,” said Waddecar. “Those other two finals, especially the second one against Darlington, we were massive underdogs.
“We weren’t expected to win but it was heartbreaking.
“But even though we lost those games, they were still great to play in and I think it stood us in good stead when we played against Prescot.
“I always felt that there was massive pressure on us in that third final.
“We were probably the favourites and we had to win.
“We managed to achieve it with Marlow scoring the winner, which was the icing on the cake really.
“Having lost twice, we knew what it felt like to miss out so we didn’t want that feeling again.”
In terms of personal highlights, Waddecar admits one of his proudest moments is winning the NPL Premier Division’s golden boot award during the 2018-19 season.
The achievement is all the more remarkable considering the teams only survived relegation by the skin of its teeth.
He said: “We were literally battling relegation and I got top goalscorer in the league which was a big highlight for me. I scored four in a game against Stafford Rangers, in a 6-1 win at our place.
"I think for different reasons that season was a highlight because we nearly went down.
“We beat Marine 2-0 away from home in the second-to-last game to stay up and that was a good day. It’s a memory I look back upon with pride.”
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