STUART Wellstead is preparing for the next stage of his football career.

He is well known around these parts for having represented many of the town's football clubs at some point over the past 20 years or so.

And the 34-year-old was player-manager of the Rylands side that won promotion to the North West Counties League Premier Division last year.

Now the experienced Germany-born campaigner, who has lived in the town since he was 11, is at 1874 Northwich bidding to help his new team win the Premier Division title and take the next step up to the Northern Premier League.

The water services manager in Burnley, who has been playing at this level for 17 years across a long list of clubs, rejoined 1874 with a three-pronged aim.

He is back-up to leading scorer Scott McGowan in case of injury in the season’s run in, he is on board to pass on his experience to young players and he is learning off managers Wayne Goodwin and Paul Bowyer for the next stage of his career after he hangs up his boots ‘shortly, probably’.

Wellstead arrived at Townfield via Congleton and he said the move suited his requirements.

“I was player-manager at Rylands last season, so I was playing a bit there but this year I decided management wasn’t for me and that’s why I tried to focus on playing and moved a couple of times,” he said.

“I’m more looking at the coaching side in the future. Sometimes you’ve got to try something to see if you like it and if it’s for you.

“I tried it and had a bit of success with Rylands but I just felt it wasn’t natural for me to be a talker in there.

“You never rule anything out, but I’m definitely looking at the coaching side and want to learn more on that.

“I did the start of my badges when I was at Rylands but the next step is more experience really.

“It’s good to go and see other people’s sessions so that I can progress myself.

“I’m definitely getting to the end of my career now. I’ve been playing in this league since I was 17. I must have racked up some games – I know I’ve racked up some clubs.

“But 1874’s a great club and I’m happy to be here.

“It’s good to pass on some experience to the young lads.

“If I can teach them a little bit, talk to them, pass on my experience, it’s good for them. And it’s good for me – they can do my running as well.

“An example of how I can help is perhaps with their body shape. They might have their back to goal instead of opening up a little bit and being on the half turn, so that they move off with the ball.

“And talking – telling them to talk to each other. If they pass it into you and don’t give you an instruction like ‘man on’, it’s getting people familiar with that because it just makes the game so much easier when you get an instruction.

“In a game I pass on things naturally because I’ve been doing it so long. People taught me what to do as well.”

Wellstead feels he is still offering plenty on the field as well as his experience.

“I work hard, I hold up play and try and bring the fast lads into the games, be a bit of a target man, win a few headers and try to play off me,” he said.

“I can’t quite run behind as fast as I used to but I still try to. I’m happy to be back-up for Scott and play when needed.”

He showed how fit he is, too, when he played three games in four days earlier this month.

With 1874’s ‘Groundhopper’ league clash at Winsford taking place on the Sunday and first-choice striker McGowan having ‘a bit of a knock’, the plan was for Wellstead to gain some game time in the Cheshire League with Eagle Sports on the Saturday to keep himself sharp.

He scored in the 2-1 win at Knutsford and due to circumstances in the game he ended up playing the whole 90 minutes.

“Then Scott failed a fitness test on Sunday so I had to put the boots on again at the start. But it was good to get the win in a derby against Winsford,” said Wellstead about one of his former clubs.

And he felt fine to play number nine again on the Tuesday night in the Mid-Cheshire District FA Senior Cup semi-final against Witton Albion, though he knew he would be very sore the next day.

“I’m sure if I’d said I wasn’t ready to play they’d have put me on the bench, but I felt fine and felt I played ok so that’s a good sign,” he said.

“When Scott’s not available I’m happy to step in and do my bit. Unfortunately I didn’t score against Witton when I had a couple of chances to, which was a bit frustrating but it happens.

“The goalkeeper made a good save with his legs for one of them, but nine times out of 10 you back yourself to score them. I’m just saying I was a bit tired from the other two games, which is why I missed.”