HELPING Rylands through their first ever season in the North West Counties League “feels massive” for player/co-manager Stuart Wellstead.

Warrington-born Wellstead is a former Blues player having previously played in the Warrington and District League and the Warrington Sunday Football League.

He has enjoyed a successful career higher up the non-league pyramid and helped Runcorn Linnets to promotion to the Northern Premier League last season.

However, Wellstead has dropped down two divisions to take up his first managerial role.

He will pick the team alongside David McNabb, with ex-Warrington Town midfielder Fraser Ablett coming in as player/assistant manager.

Ahead of the start of Rylands’ Division One South campaign, Wellstead says making the step up with Blues was something he always wanted to do.

“I played for Rylands a few years ago, so I have a strong connection with the club,” he said.

“I’d just won the Counties Prem with Linnets, but this felt more like a personal challenge.

“Once I was aware of the interest from the club and heard what they wanted to do, it felt massive.

“It is a big change for me to go into management, but the project is an unbelievable one.

“With it being local for me as well, it was something I wanted to be involved with straight away.

“I must have been about 24 or 25 when I played here. I was constantly on at the manager asking if we were going to step up to the Counties.

“At the time, there wasn’t the infrastructure for it off the field but now they are.

“Making that step up with Rylands is always something I wanted to do.”

Wellstead also enjoyed spells at Warrington Town and Eagle Sports before going on to the likes of Winsford United and 1874 Northwich.

For his first foray into management, he said it was crucial to have trusted aides by his side – with McNabb and Ablett fitting the criteria.

“I’ve known Dave for 20 years, so there’s a lot of trust there,” he said.

“If my performances are good enough for me to be on the pitch, I want someone on the sidelines who has the same philosophies as me.

“We both like to get the ball down, play good football and most importantly, win football matches.

“If I see something on the pitch that he doesn’t see off it – or vice versa – there’s that trust there to have that chat to rectify it.

“Fraser has been unbelievable since he came in. His training methods have been unbelievable.”

“He’s just passed his UEFA A license and Dave has just passed his UEFA B, so that’s something I want to crack on with.”

Having assembled an almost entirely new squad of players, Wellstead, McNabb and Ablett have been busy getting them prepared for a historic campaign.

Their first game is a trip to Ellesmere Rangers on Saturday, August 4.

“Everyone is working really hard, which is probably down to the fitness sessions we’ve put on,” Wellstead said.

“We’ve done a few hot spinning sessions, including one just before a game.

“It has just been about setting mental challenges for the players.

“It is hard to dig deep and play a game with tired legs because they have been spinning in the morning.

“It will all stand them in good stead when the season starts. They will still have that extra bit in their legs after 70-80 minutes.

“We’re probably a bit further ahead of where I thought we’d be at the moment, but there’s still room for improvement as there always is.”