FC St Helens sporting director, Mark Hayes is optimistic for the club’s future following their promotion from the tenth to ninth tier of English football.

The Merseyside outfit were recently crowned North West Counties Football League First Division North champions, and defeated Brocton last Saturday to claim the First Division Champions Cup.

Hayes is very proud of the club’s achievements this season: “It’s really huge.

“I think what’s underestimated is we were at the top all year, literally all year.

“And hats off to the likes of Atherton LR, because we were out of sight at one point, and they just kept chomping at the ankles really.

“But it’s huge, FC St Helens have only been going nine years.

“When you put that into context, of playing Cheshire League football, rising through those divisions, and coming into the counties, last year we missed out on promotion, getting beaten in the play-offs and this year it’s one step further by winning the league.

South Liverpool at FC St Helens. Image by Liam McDermott.

“It’s superb, and to cap it off with a double is always good.”

Hayes also discussed the financial implications of promotion: “It’s a weird one, because it’s a negative.

“At our level, it’s no Premier League, sadly there’s no TV rights to be negotiated.

“It cost the club, to cut a long story short.

“FC St Helens was, 10 years ago, a cricket ground.

“They’ve got it good enough to play counties football, but to go up another division, you have to double the amount of seats you’ve got, and you have to double the amount of standing area as well.

“You don’t get one pound for winning a trophy, it’s actually going to cost us a fair few thousand to double the seating capacity and the covered standing area.

“Which is what we’ve planned for.

“I’ve only been at FC since September, but been in non-league football for 16 years now, and I’m not just saying it because I’m there, it’s the best ran club behind the scenes that I’ve been at.

“For me, when it was obviously a realistic challenge to get promoted, it does come to those financial restraints, and it was all in (the) plan.

“It was all signed and sealed to get the stands doubled in the summer.

“It’s hard financially, non-league football.

“Sadly to compete, you have to pay expenses to players, to get them to your games.

“And obviously going up a level, there’s a little bit more of an expectation with that.

“Especially when you’ve got the likes of Bury in the league, Isle of Man, Kendal, Burscough.

“There’s some huge teams in that division.

“We’re prepared and we’ll have a good crack at it.”