With his first full season as CEO of his boyhood club well underway, James Leary admitted that promotion is must for Marine AFC.

Relegation last term ended a 40-year spell in the Northern Premier League – leaving the Mariners on the eighth tier of English football.

This season though, after an overhaul of the playing squad, Marine are starting to enjoy some long-awaited success on the pitch, and are pushing towards the top of the table.

“We should be at least one level above where we are now,” Leary said, following his club’s 3-1 victory over Marske United.

“From my point of view I wasn’t so fussed about the cups this year, it’s all about the league and we’ve got to get promoted.”

Since his appointment in December last year, Leary has strived to ensure that Marine progresses and grows both on and off the pitch.

“It’s been a bit of a challenge, there’s been a lot of things we’ve been looking to change at the club, for the short term, medium and long term,” Leary revealed.

“At the moment we’ve tried to tick off the list, a lot of short term things, things like people taking a beer into the ground as one of a number of things.”

Despite the recent improvements around the ground, Leary still believes there is work to be done to enhance the clubs finance in the future, and in turn, improve the football being played at the Marine Travel Arena.

“Mainly my focus at the moment is on the long term stuff, like how we’re going to increase our revenues to be able to invest more into the playing squad, improve the team and hopefully push up the [football] pyramid,” he explained.

Reflecting on Marine’s prolonged period in the same division prior to this season, Leary cites a lack of funds as a reason for the club’s progress stagnating.

“What we found in the final few years in the Betvictor Premier was that there were teams with a lot higher budgets than we had,” Leary claimed.

“So we’ve got to concentrate on really trying to push up, and drive up our revenues to increase the budget, to allow us to compete at a higher level.”

Even if Marine do achieve their goal of promotion back to the Northern Premier, Leary is keen for their progress up the footballing ladder to continue.

“The next step is getting back there [Northern Premier] as soon as possible, then without a doubt we want to push to the conference north.”

“When we were in the BetVictor Premier it was always our aim to reach the conference north, and it’s only the last five, six years we’ve been poor on the pitch so that’s taken a back seat.”

“Hopefully if we get back into the BetVictor Premier, we’ll get a bit of momentum, increased budget, increased support, and that’ll then spur us on to look upwards in the pyramid rather than down.”

Crosby-based Marine have played their home games at the Marine Travel Arena for 116 years, and if they intend on moving up the divisions, improving their facilities is a priority.

Leary explained how the club has benefitted from Premier League funding, and how teams in the lower leagues rely on such schemes.

“There’s lots of criticism with how much money comes down, but the one thing they do do is the Football Stadia Improvement Fund,” Leary pointed out. “They contribute to 70% of any ground development works that we want to.”

Jamie Carragher recently visited the stadium as part of short Premier League documentary, which highlighted how Marine have put the funds to use.


“It’s massive, I think it cost £120,000 altogether so realistically without the money from the Premier League we couldn’t have done it,” Leary said.

He conceded that without the money from the Premier League, his project at Marine would be near impossible.

“We rely on it, physically there’s absolutely no way we could’ve done what we’ve done without it. Unless we have a ‘big money man’ who’s going to come in and put loads of money in to develop the facilities it’s just not going to happen.”

“That’s the fifth chunk of money we’ve had now from the Premier League and it’s allowed us to transform the ground. There’s still stuff we need to do, but getting to where we have done it’s been a bid help.”

Leary believes that the improved performances on the pitch can help bring some positivity back to the club.

“We got a gate full today which was really good, we’re winning a lot more home games than we have been in the last few years and you can see people are going away happier.”

“There just generally seems to be an upturn in support and an upturn in interest, and hopefully if we carry on putting in performances like today, that’ll keep increasing,” he added.

Marine travel to 8th placed Trafford on Saturday, with Leary hoping his side can push on from their win over Marske, and take another small step towards his goal of returning to the Northern Premier.