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19 Jun 2018 : Record breaker Matt Atherton bids farewell to Linnets

MATT Atherton, holder of the record for most Linnets appearances and dubbed 'Mr Runcorn' by fans, is saying his goodbyes at the club.

Athers, who first played in the Yellow & Green in 2010, fulfilled his dreams of long-awaited title success in 2017-18.

A memorable season also saw him become the first to make 300 first team games for Linnets.

His departure will inevitably sadden supporters but is not that unexpected.

On setting the new appearances mark in January, Athers had hinted that his senior non-league career was reaching an end.

He has been a terrific servant to the Murdishaw outfit.

After playing in a variety of positions over the years, he unexpectedly ended up at the end of the title-winning campaign as a centre half.

Typically, he excelled in the new role.

Athers, a school teacher by profession, started at the club as a winger but had more recently converted to defence as a left back.

He has also operated for Linnets as a central striker and even as an emergency goalkeeper!

Athers is now to return to the local club in the Chorley area, which he first served in his youth.

'I'm signing for Euxton Villa in the West Lancs Premier as player- coach - mainly because of work commitments/travel, due to starting new job as as an assistant head in Bolton,' he explained.

'It's also a chance to get more coaching experience.'

When interviewed at the start of the year, Athers had admitted: 'Coaching is a big passion of mine and I'm hopeful of achieving my UEFA A Licence in the next year or two.

'I manage two teams - one being the district u15s team for Manchester and the other being the Greater Manchester u14s County Team.

'I'm fortunate to work with some fantastic players, some of whom have gone into professional football.

'I was recently shortlisted for the England u18s schoolboys manager role and I certainly see this a target for the future.'

Athers had returned to the MLS in September 2017 for his third spell, having twice left for EVO-STIK football.

He has enjoyed every minute of his time with the Linnets and clearly doesn't rule out another Runcorn comeback further down the line.

'Who knows where I will end up coaching?,' he'd said in that January. 'You only need to look at Ello and Crossy to see the draw this club has on you!'

Manager Michael Ellison said: 'What more can you say about Matt Atherton?

'The word legend is sometimes over used but Matt is certainly a legend in these parts. We certainly hope that it is au revoir rather than goodbye and he will pop down when he can because the place certainly won't seem the same without him.'

Club chairman, Mark Buckley said: 'Matt has been an absolute credit to the club and himself, both on and off the field.

'We all think the world of him and he'll be truly missed. But at the same time, we realise and appreciate that it is time for him to move on, in terms of his career.

'On behalf of the fans we say thanks for all the memories, Matt and we wish you all the very best for the future.'

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15:47 18/3/2019

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