Express & Star

Dave Cooke tells Stafford Rangers they must claw their way up the table

Survival is the aim for new Stafford Rangers boss Dave Cooke as he looks to maintain a winning start against Marske United tomorrow.


Cooke began his reign at the Rangers with a 2-0 win over Atherton Collieries on Tuesday, ending Stafford’s winless run of 12 Northern Premier games.

Looking to bolster his squad further after signing experienced forward A-Jay Leitch-Smith, Cooke doesn’t care how long it takes, but just his new side avoids relegation as they sit four points adrift of safety.

“We have got to claw ourselves out of this relegation zone,” said Cooke. “If it takes until April, as long as we’re not in the bottom four then I’m sure we’ll all be happy.

“It’s not a thing the club would have wanted at the start of the season, to think that they would settle for fifth from bottom.

“We know we need players. We need five or six quickly. I’m sure that with the players that come in results will start to pick up.

“The beauty of non-league is you don’t have to sign players like professional clubs where they are stuck with you, if they can’t handle it and there’s one or two that fall away, there will be others that’ll be coming in.”

The former Shrewsbury Town assistant manager felt well prepared going into his first game having attended several matches before his appointment, and hopes his Rangers can stay grounded to claim another win this weekend. Cooke said: “I have watched the last two or three games for my own opinions. I’ve spoken to Dale Belford and we’re probably a coat of paint different in opinions.

“Let’s not get carried away, we’ve won one game and we know this league is unforgiving.

“The lads have got confidence. You’d watch the game and scratch your head wondering how we have gone so long without a win.

“Hopefully we’ll prepare ourselves right in training, I’ll get to know the players a bit more and we look forward to the game.”

In the National League, Kidderminster Harriers host Ebbsfleet United, while in National League North Rushall Olympic entertain Blyth Spartans. In the Southern Central Premier, Halesowen Town host Mickleover and Stourbridge welcome Alvechurch.