Ramsbottom United’s Joel Pilkington has decided to retire from the game, having played 235 appearances for the club and been integral to their recent run of successes.
Joint-manager of the Rams, Anthony Johnson was fulsome in his praise of the very popular player as he announced his decision.
“He has been struggling to get up for football for a while now, really since he broke his arm last year. But he has been 100% committed to us, never missed a training session in the six years he has been with us but he just feels that he can’t do what he normally does and, as a man who has got that many principles and morals, has taken the decision to step away from the game.
“He is an honest man – he didn’t want to go to another club as he wanted the Rams to be his last club. That is the kind of man he is, totally committed to the cause, even continuing to switch and change jobs to fit in with his football.
“But he is now 30 and has been playing non-stop for the last 15 years. When I spoke to him after the Halesowen game, he sounded mentally fatigued, just generally tired and he wanted a break.
“You could see it in his eyes on Saturday, he was 100% as always, all or nothing, but it was obvious it has been playing on his mind for a while.”
Speaking about his career, Johnson added, “He was our first ever signing and has played 235 games for us in total. You can use all the superlatives you want, Pilky is an absolute legend. He might not have the strength of Gaz (Gary Stopforth), the pace of Whiz (Phil Dean) or the skill of Spenno (Grant Spencer) but he is so resilient, so committed, always putting his body on the line.
“Pilky is the ultimate cliche player – you can say anything you like about him and it will be true. I could sit here all day and talk about him as he is arguably the best signing we made, as he was the first call we made when we took over as managers.
“And he has three medals – a runners-up and two promotion medals. From a man who played in our very first game to playing last Saturday, that showed how much he meant to us as a management team. He is a massive part of what we are doing. He was able to play in any position was asked him to – that’s how much we believed in the guy.”
The co-manager also paid tribute to the professional attitude he brought to the game and to the dressing room. “He was so invaluable to many of the players,” he added. “I know that he gave a lot of advise to the likes of Phil Dean, talking about the game etc. Whenever Whiz needed some help or advise, it was Pilky he went to and others have done the same. That shows the type of figure he is.
“Along with the likes of Gaskell and Dawson, Pilky was a great calming influence, using his experience throughout.”
“It is really disappointing to lose him from the set-up but he has a young family and wants to spend more time with them, which we all understand. But he will be massively missed, he is a great man and we all wish him well.”
Accrington-born Joel Thomas Pilkington joined the club ahead of the 2009/10 season from then-fellow North West Counties League side Runcorn Linnets as co-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley first ever signing.
His career started as a youth player with Burnley in the summer of 2000 and made 2 substitute appearances in the Football League for the club, coming on for Richard Chaplow in the home match against MK Dons on 20 April 2004 and featuring as a sub for Ian Moore against Bournemouth at Turf Moor on 29 January 2005 (pictured right playing for Burnley!!)
Sadly, he was released by the club in May 2005 and plied his trade with Hyde United, Mossley, Chorley, Clitheroe and Runcorn Linnets before joining the Rams ahead of the Morley/Johnson era, playing in the first ever match under them against Newcastle Town.
In the six seasons he has been with the Rams, he made 215 starts and 20 appearances off the substitutes bench, scoring 18 goals – his last coming after 39 minutes in the 7-1 thrashing of Burscough in the Evo-Stik Northern Division One North fixture.
He has also been a vital cog in the Ramsbottom United wheel that saw the club rise from the bottom of the North West Counties League to third place in Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, completing two promotions in three years and being ever reliable, playing in any manner of positions as required to do so.
Joel Pilkington – Ramsbottom United 2009 to 2014.