Wellington Amateurs are aiming high after Athletic merger

Wellington Amateurs can look forward to a bright future thanks to a merger with Oakengates Athletic.

Ready for a new challenge – Oakengates Athletic’s title winners have switched to Wellington Amateurs
Ready for a new challenge – Oakengates Athletic’s title winners have switched to Wellington Amateurs

Athletic, who claimed the the Shropshire Premier Division title by four points from Shrewsbury Juniors last season, were keen to up sticks and find a more competitive challenge.

And Amateurs have welcomed them on board.

One of the most high-profile links between two Shropshire football clubs in a number of years sees the treble-winning county side return to their former School Grove home, where they will continue as a squad and management under a new Wellington Amateurs guise.

The move will see the Oakengates name vanish after more than 130 years, first as Oakengates Town and then Oakengates Athletic.

Athletic will be making the move on the back of a stunning season of success,

Under the management of Shaun Hughes – who joined Amateurs-bound Lee Mitchell and Carl Probert – they made an impressive defence of the league crown they won during 2016/17 – their third title in five years having won in in 2013/14.

They also claimed the county cup and league cup in a memorable campaign.

Mitchell and Probert are joined by chairman Robin Hancock, matchday secretary Dave Richards and a host of committee members in making the switch to Wellington’s base, now called Fortis Stadium, the home Oakengates left in 2005 when Town became Athletic.

A turbulent campaign for Amateurs brought relegation from the West Midlands Regional League Premier Division – three tiers above Oakengates.

Their management duo Steve Barrow and Juan Dopazo, who took over in October, left earlier this summer.

Chairman Adrian Stanton also left last term. Club president and stalwart Dave Gregory has been busy finalising plans for next season in West Midlands Division One and is delighted to welcome Mitchell and Probert on board.

“We had an approach from Lee for him and Carl to bring their Oakengates players over,” said Gregory.

“I get asked three or four times a year to ground share but it’s not in the terms of our lease to do that.

“We lost the chairman, two sets of managers and coaches last season, a lot of good people.

“Lee said that his Oakengates team were looking for a new home. It is Wellington Amateurs going forward but it’s the Oakengates players.”

Gregory is excited about the prospect of Amateurs’ new era.

After flirting with the drop for a handful of seasons, the president is confident the new staff and players have what it takes to adapt.

He added that the winning feeling has been one missed at Wellington.

“They are a very good side,” Gregory continued. “The players wanted a fresh challenge. We want to get back to winning games.

“We were about to advertise the position and we knew Lee very well.

“He had been instructed by the players to look for a West Midlands set-up. It suited us at the time to have a stabilised side.

“Their background is in the Mercian League. They both still play Sunday football and are relatively young and good coaches.

“Lots of players followed Steve and Juan from Brocton and Staffordshire. We still remain friendly with them and they’ve gone with our blessings.

“We’ve now got the skills in place. Their committee is coming over and we’ve got our own volunteers. Rob is a businessman and brings his own skills.”

Things now seem in place for Wellington to progress. The club boast six youth sides from under-18s down in an exclusive partnership with Telford College of Arts and Technology (TCAT).

Mitchell, who was with Oakengates since the reforming in 2005, is joined by former Brown Clee man Probert and despite the step up in divisions, is confident of success.

He said: “We are excited. We looked at doing it ourselves but the facilities were not there. I’ve known Dave a long, long time.

“The lads want to progress and the Shropshire League is going to get worse and worse. It’s very sad, it breaks my heart.

“I’m a football lad through and through and it’s sickening.

“Half of my squad played for Shawbury when they won the West Mids Prem recently. Shaun Hughes came in a couple of seasons ago and brought some lads with him. He’ll have some input (at Amateurs).

“The only lad we’ve had leave is Danny Guthrie for Indonesia.

“I think we can get top six minimum. We beat some West Midlands teams in pre-season last season. We know what we’re up against.”

Mitchell revealed he and Probert have been busy fielding calls from interested players after their move was confirmed.

He added: “There’s the FA Vase, the JW Hunt Cup, the Commander Ethelston Charity Cup, the league and the league cup. We will be bringing in more strength in depth.

“We’ve had 16 lads enquire about pre-season. The club have been in the doldrums for three or four years. Now we’ve got local players and managers who will bring friends and family. There will be support and interest.”

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