SIMON BALDRY is looking forward to locking horns with former club Huddersfield Town in tomorrow’s pre-season friendly at Bradford Park Avenue (7.30).
But the 34-year-old winger, who made 166 appearances in a decade of service with his hometown team, will be looking firmly towards the future – not the past.
Having skippered Avenue to last season’s Evo-Stik (Northern Premier) League Premier Division play-off final, Baldry is now assistant manager to Simon Collins.
Collins, of course, is an old colleague from Leeds Road and the Galpharm, and the duo have persuaded a third former Town man, Chris Billy, to join them.
“The three of us go back a long way, and having come through under the same coaching system at Town, we share the same ideas about how to play the game,” said Baldry.
“I’ve worked with Simon before (at Ossett Albion), and it’s great to have somebody as experienced as Chris on board.
“While Simon and Chris will focus on coaching, I plan to keep playing as long as I enjoy it and feel I can make a useful contribution.
“That gives me a slightly different angle on the coaching side to the other two, and hopefully it will work the way we want it to.
“We all appreciate football at this level is different from the pro game, and it doesn’t suit everyone, but I really enjoy the challenge.
“From a management perspective, it’s about being well organised and using the time you have with the players efficiently.”
Baldry, who had a season at Notts County after leaving Town in 2003, believes Bradford Park Avenue can be a big force in non-league football.
The original club lost their Football League place to Cambridge United 40 years ago and after four seasons in the Northern Premier League, went into liquidation.
But supporters registered the name as a company and played local Sunday soccer before expansion, originally as a West Riding County Amateur League club, in the late Eighties.
“It’s a famous old name, and while other sides do raise their game because of that there are far more positives than negatives,” added Baldry.
“It gives us some prestige and hopefully helps when it comes to recruiting players, and I really believe we can take the club forward.
“Losing in last season’s play-off final (2-1 to Boston United) was very, very disappointing, but when you take a wider view, we did well last season.
“We finished only a point behind the champions (Guiseley), and came close in the play-offs, and that’s a solid platform to build on.
“Our budget is quite tight, but I think that’s the same for most clubs, and we’re happy with the squad we’ve built.
“We had a solid 2-0 win at Durham City on Saturday, but obviously playing Town will be a big step up, but it’s a great test for us.”
Baldry’s 10 goals for Town included a strike in the last-ever game at Leeds Road (the 2-1 win over Blackpool in 1994).
Then there was the crucial effort which clinched a 1-0 home win over West Brom and sealed Town’s ‘great escape’ from relegation to League I in 1998.
But he insisted: “It was all a long time ago, and while I have a lot of good memories from that part of my career, I’m concentrating on the present.”
The new approach of Collins, a former Park Avenue player who has previously managed Stocksbridge Park Steels as well as Ossett Town and succeeds John Deacey, has certainly impressed Bradford’s chief executive Bob Blackburn.
“Training has been different to last season, with new methods and schedules, and it’s been good to see,” he said.
“Simon Collins and his coaches have given the players a real work-out.
“The early sessions were all about fitness work after seven weeks without training.
“But then the footballs came out in readiness for the first friendly and with games and training, the boys will be working three times a week.”
Admission to the Town friendly is £6 adults, £3 seniors and students and £1 under 16s.
Town visit Avenue’s Evo-Stik Premier Division rivals Frickley Athletic on Thursday (7.30).