Thanks for the memories skip! Former captain and stalwart defender Matt Lawlor looks back on his time with Bamber Bridge
Stalwart Matt Lawlor will never forget the special memories he has forged at Bamber Bridge after bringing the curtain down on his career at Irongate.
The Brig captain announced his departure last month after a near decade-long stint with the Northern Premier League club.
The 32-year-old has decided to call it quits due to the growing demands of his coaching career at Fleetwood Town coupled with his family commitments.
A husband to Rebecca and a father to two-year-old Maxwell, Lawlor revealed something had to give after he was promoted to coach the Cod Army’s Under-18s team, as well as continue to look after the 12 to 16-year-olds, which meant he was struggling to commit to both games and training with Brig.
He will certainly be a big miss at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium –his calming influence wearing the armband in central defence certainly pivotal to the club’s success in recent years.
And Lawlor – who has also acted as the club’s caretaker manager and player-coach in the past – admitted that not being part of the Brig Army any more will take some getting used to.
“During the lockdowns, I got promoted in my job at Fleetwood Town and that’s going to take up a lot more of my time,” said Lawlor, who was attached to Blackpool as a youth team player before going on to make more than 100 appearances for AFC Fylde.
“Also with having a young family and knowing how much time and commitment it takes to play at NPL level, it really is a massive commitment.
“I can’t commit anymore to what is required to enable me to perform at the level that I have done for the nine years prior. I can’t really commit to the away games.
“The last game of the season just gone before we went into lockdown was at Morpeth Town on a Tuesday night and I didn’t get back home until 2-30am and then I had to be in for training at Fleetwood at 8am.
“It was a decision I didn’t take lightly and it took me a month to build up the courage to tell Milli (manager Jamie Milligan).
“I just didn’t want to let myself down or Brig down by not being able to commit.”
It’s certainly been a rollercoaster of a ride at Brig for Lawlor.
He has experienced play-off final heartbreak twice when Neil Crowe was manager and in recent times has helped steer the club away from relegation when all looked lost.
But his greatest moment arrived in 2018 when he held aloft the NPL First Division North play-off final trophy at Irongate after Brig – then managed by Neil Reynolds – sealed promotion by beating Prescot Cables 1-0.
The year before that the club had picked up its first piece of silverware in more than a decade when it won the Doodson NPL Cup after a 2-1 win over Grantham Town.
He said: “I think the play-off final happened three years ago to the day on Wednesday so all the memories of that day popped up on our Facebook timelines and stuff.
“Then the year before that there was the Doodson Cup win which was sort of the build up to putting that promotion-winning squad together.
“But I think I look back at all my time with Brig with fond memories. We had loads of play-off runs when literally our playing budget was next to nothing.
“We were basically just a group of good players, good lads, good mates who just went and put some great runs together. We got to the play-off finals twice under Neil Crowe as manager where we were competing against teams like Darlington and Halifax.
“Crowey did an unbelievable job because our budget was probably in the bottom two.There were a few years when we had to stabilise but for about three years we really pushed on.
“We lost in the play-off final twice to Ramsbottom and Darlington, respectively, who were both throwing money at it.
“Crowey decided to step away and that’s when Renno came in as manager and under him and Simon Wiles, who was his assistant, we managed to finally get over the line and win promotion.
“I think it was a culmination of many years work done by everyone and it was amazing when we beat Prescot in the play-off final.”
While all the on-pitch success – and failures – will live long in the memory, Lawlor admits the relationships he has forged along the way is what he covets most.
“My biggest memories are all the relationships I have formed,” he said.
“I have got friends for life – people like Ally Waddecar, Lee Dovey, Chris Marlow, Matt Mahoney, Phil Doughty, Lennie Reid, I could go on and on.
“All the relationships I have formed are the biggest thing for me because they play a huge part in your life.”
Lawlor said he was undecided about whether he would continue playing at a lower level, but is now keen to fully focus on his role of becoming the best coach he can be to help academy-aged players fulfil their potential.
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