There won’t be many players plying their trade in the eighth tier of English football that have stepped in similar paths to some of the globe’s elite.
But Simon Garner’s Blues are only a win away from achieving just that. The Macron Stadium, home to Championship side Bolton Wanderers, is set to host the final of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy.
Clitheroe face North West Counties First Division leaders Atherton Collieries in the semi-final of the competition in Leyland on Tuesday, kick-off 7-45 p.m. The victors will then take on Chorley in Horwich next month.
Since the Trotters moved away from their Burnden Park base the club has featured in 12 Premier League terms as well as two UEFA Cup campaigns.
Andrei Arshavin (Zenit), Luis Fabiano (Seville), Samir Nasri (Marseille), Franck Ribery (Marseille), Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid) and Joao Moutinho (Sporting Lisbon) have all played under the lights at the stadium, formerly known as the Reebok, on European nights.
“The club got to the final of the competition about five years ago and I played in it,” said Garner. “It would be amazing for the club and for me personally because it’s an opportunity to win something in my first season in management. To get to the final at a professional stadium would be brilliant.
“The Macron Stadium has staged Premier League football so it’ll be great for this set of players to play there. The semi-final will by no means be an easy game though. They’ve lost once in the league all season and they’re going to win the title.”
Garner featured in a playing capacity for the Blues when the club reached the final of the competition five years ago under the stewardship of Peter Smith and assistant Kenny Mayers.
Clitheroe had dumped Fleetwood Town out en route but were denied by Conference-bound Southport at the final hurdle as they lost 4-0.
“It was great,” Garner said. “The whole set-up was fantastic. We were in the home changing room that night and walked out in front of around 1,000 people. The pitch was immaculate and it was a great occasion. The result wasn’t great but the experience was fantastic. I want to go back there and get a result this time.”
Attention will turn to the weekend first though as Clitheroe tackle Scarborough Athletic at Shawbridge. After the 6-4 win over Kendal Town, Garner said: “Winning a game at home has given us huge confidence because we hadn’t done it in a while. It was a big result for us.
“It would be even better if we can follow that up with another one. Another positive result at home would be massive for us.
“The lads will be up for it because they’ll be vying for their spots in the team for Tuesday’s semi-final.”