Craig Salmon talks to Bamber Bridge midfielder Michael Potts ahead of Saturday’s play-off final against Prescot Cables at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium
Should Michael Potts lead Bamber Bridge to promotion glory on Saturday afternoon, there are likely to be a few messages of congratulations pinging to his phone after the final whistle has been blown.
Family and close friends are sure to want to pass on their best wishes to the midfielder – there may even be one of two texts from former team-mates, such as current England stars Jesse Lingard and Danny Welbeck.
Preston lad Potts grew up playing alongside the pair – along with other Premier League aces like Danny Drinkwater and Matty James – when he was a promising young player on the books of Manchester United.
Lingard, of course, has been one of United’s main players this season, while Welbeck also broke through into the first team at Old Trafford before moving on to Arsenal.
Both Drinkwater and James made their names away from United, most notably at Leicester City, although the former has since transferred to Chelsea. Although Potts’ career has not quite taken the same trajectory as that quartet – he did play in League Two for York City – his friendships with many of the players he played with as a kid will always remain.
“Oh yeah, when I was at United there were plenty of players in my age group who have gone on to make it,” said Potts, who signed for Blackburn Rovers as a professional after being released by United at 16. “Players like Jesse Lingard, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Danny Welbeck, Matty James, Ollie Norwood, Danny Drinkwater, Ben Amos.
“Then when I went to Blackburn, there were Phil Jones, Jason Lowe, Grant Hanley.
“It’s frustrating a little bit for me to see them all playing in the Premier League, Championship or League One.
“They have all gone on to have phenomenal careers.
“But they were all just better players than me.
“We don’t all really keep in touch, they’re all busy – I am busy.
“If I bumped into any of them in the street, it would probably be like we only saw each other yesterday.
“But if they were to win the Premier League or something like that, I would drop them a text to say congratulations.”
One former Football League star who is likely to jump on Potts’ back this afternoon should Brig complete their promotion journey is the 26-year-old’s dad Eric.
A winger of some repute back in the 1970s and 1980s for Preston North End, Sheffield Wednesday, Brighton and Burnley, among others, Potts senior is his son’s biggest fan.
“My dad had a great career,” said Potts. “He was a winger when he played, although I never got the opportunity to see him play.
“He had retired at the time I was born.
“He’s 67 now and I think he’s proud that I have kind of followed in his footsteps and played in the Football League.
“He probably still wishes I was playing in League Two, but he loves coming down to Bamber Bridge and watching me play.
“It’s local for him and he comes every game.”
Potts arrived at Bamber Bridge at the start of last season and the team has gone from strength to strength under manager Neil Reynolds, who took over from Neil Crowe in late 2016. Last season Potts was an integral member of the side which won the League Cup.
They have backed that success up with a concerted promotion push this term in the NPL First Division North.
The early season pacesetters, Brig have rarely spent any time outside the top five this season and were still very much in with a shout of automatic promotion until they faltered slightly over the final few weeks.
However, after beating Tadcaster Albion 2-1 in Tuesday night’s semi-final at home they are just 90 minutes away from a place in the NPL Premier Division.
And having only lost once all season, few would bet against them getting the right result against Prescot Cables on Saturday.
“The aim at the start of the season was to get promoted whether that be automatically or via the play-offs.
“We are in the play-off final and hopefully we can finish the job off.
“It’s been a tough season, but we’re looking forward to the final.
“We know ourselves how tough playing Prescot is going to be.
“We will have our hands full with them. They have improved since the start of the season and signed some very good players.
“They are in very good form at the minute, but so are we.”
Brig’s fine form this season has been driven by Reynolds and Potts admitted he has been an inspiration this season.
“The manager is very ambitious for himself and Bamber Bridge,” said Potts, who attended New Longton Primary School and Penwortham Priory Academy.
“He wants to see the club progress and I think with him, it’s all about the positivity. He understands the balance of when to be positive or when the lads need a telling off.”