Midfielder Charlie Russell claims that Clitheroe’s school of “hard yards” helped him to become the player that he is today.
The 23-year-old enjoyed an uninterrupted run during his first spell with the Blues under former Wales international Simon Haworth after struggling to build a head of steam at both Stockport County and Lancaster City.
The Shawbridge skipper had experienced life with The Hatters in the Conference North - now the National League North - in the embryonic stages of his career before moving to the Giant Axe Stadium for more game time.
While the switch enhanced his understanding of the game, and what it required to excel at that level, he still found himself in and out of the side. That’s when Clitheroe came calling.
“I was there [at Lancaster City] for 14 games right at the start of the season,” said Russell, an education and sports tutor at Blackburn Rovers Sports College.
“I’d played 28 games for Stockport County in the Conference North, I was 19 when I left, and it was a real culture shock. I was only starting about one in six games after I moved.
“I started to realise how hard it was to play week in week out at that level, it caught me out a little bit. I was a bit down about it and then Clitheroe got in touch.
“I told Phil [Brown] that I needed to get my head down and graft so I could come back fitter and stronger. I felt that I was miles off physically and mentally.
“He wanted me to give it more time, he thought I was moving on too soon, but it was a good move for me. I ended up getting 50 games under my belt and I needed that responsibility.
“Those 50 games have stood me in good stead. I couldn’t get to grips with it beforehand, I didn’t have that experience or know-how. My body just wasn’t used to playing men’s football.
“It’s all about development. I wouldn’t change what I did. I wanted to show people what I was about, I didn’t want to settle for second best. You need those hard yards and Clitheroe offered me that.”
Russell had worked with Brown at Edgeley Park, during Alan Lord’s reign, and the pair were later reunited at The Dolly Blues.
Now in their third stint together, the Clitheroe captain feels they’ve become a good match. Just over a third of the way into the campaign the club sits third in the BetVictor NPL North-West Division, with 24 points from 14 games.
He said: “I worked with him [Phil Brown] at Stockport County and then he took me to Lancaster City. I know how he works, what he expects and the standards he wants.
“I think it’s a good match. I enjoy the professionalism he brings, he treats it like we’re a full-time club with the way we train, the way we look and the way he wants us to play.”
The Blues welcome sixth place Tadcaster Albion to the Ribble Valley on Saturday.