West Yorkshire League: New man Mike Bligh eyes Knaresborough Town cup glories

Mike Bligh (Peter Arnett - Harrogate Town)
Mike Bligh (Peter Arnett - Harrogate Town)
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Knaresborough Town have a third new face at the helm of their high-flying reserve squad, and his sights are firmly set on cup glory this campaign.

Town’s second string had initially announced that Steve Donoghue would take over following Jeff Wells’ surprise exit at the end of October.

A week later, Wells’ assistant Andy Pickles was installed as his replacement and he guided the team to an 8-1 thrashing of Shelf United in the West Riding County Challenge Cup – the reserves’ last match.

However, he has since passed on the duties to Harrogate Town youth development coach Mike Bligh, who has agreed to take the reigns on a permanent basis.

The former semi-professional footballer, who had to retire from playing early due to injury, has worked as a development coach at Championship side Middlesbrough over the last few years.

“It’s a new challenge,” said Bligh. “I have been in football development for longer than I can remember. There becomes a time when you realise you are at the end of a cycle and you want a new challenge.

“I needed to get away from development centres and get involved at where it matters.

“Knaresborough was the ideal fit in terms of location and where the team has come in such a short space of time.”

Bligh takes over the Reserves with them positioned tenth in the West Yorkshire Premier Division – one league below the Brian Davey’s first team squad.

His first match was postponed against Beckwithshaw Saints in the Whitworth Cup semi-final on Saturday. That means his first test will come up against reigning West Yorkshire League champions Bardsey in the League Cup this weekend. Bardsey boss Lee Barraclough insisted the competition was not on his hit list this season, but for Bligh, it’s a totally different story.

He said: “We have to look at every cup competition as a cup we can do something in. We are going to do as well as we can in the league, if we can win a few cup along the way, that’s great.

“The players have to show me what they are about. It will be a good learning curve for me.”

Pickles will remain Bligh’s right-hand man and his knowledge of the squad will be invaluable to the new boss over the next few weeks.

Bligh said he would use his experience of developing players to help Davey’s first team squad, as well as trying to achieve results himself over the remaining 18 league matches.

He said: “With having meeting with the current management team, the message is quite clear for us to maintain our position and do well in the West Yorkshire League.

“But it’s also channelling potential first team players into the first team for Brian. That’s been my game for many years.”