Bamber Bridge: An untold story of non-league over-achievers


You may well not have heard of Bamber Bridge Football Club, but let us enlighten you. A non-league football club, situated south of the River Ribble in Preston in the village of Bamber Bridge.

A small but loyal fanbase, a clubhouse which brings familiar faces together, and a stadium named after an English-footballing great, Sir Tom Finney. The Sir Tom Finney Stadium holds a maximum of 3000 people (554 seated) and Bamber Bridge play at step seven of the English football pyramid in what is the Northern Premier League Premier Division. So, what makes ‘Brig’ special? They average an estimate of around 500 people a game, they don’t have too many ‘stellar’ players who at the end of their careers venture down the football pyramid, so what makes them an interest to anyone outside of Bamber Bridge.

First off, the gaffer. A former Everton and Blackpool midfielder who also featured for England at youth level and isn’t short of achievements given what he’s done in West-Lancashire, Jamie Milligan is surely destined for a job higher up the pyramid in the future. He has multiple contacts across the EFL and given his affiliation with the likes of Blackpool and Fleetwood on the coast along with Brig’s local association with Preston North End who they play in an annual friendly each pre-season, Brig have a pick of the bunch in terms of loaning youth players with high potential.

PNE’s Daniel Johnson playing in the annual friendly between Bamber Bridge and Preston North End.

In turn, Milligan and his contacts are a huge asset to the non-league side and whilst loanees continue to succeed at the STF Stadium, then clubs will continue to trust them with their players’ development. Then of course, the history behind the club. Being formed back in 1952, the club has moved up through the North-West counties league following a merge with other local amateur side Walton-Le-Dale, and after winning multiple honours along the way, they saw themselves maintain their place in the football pyramid. Following on from this, just short of 50 years on from their founding year, Brig made the first round of the F.A. Cup, the most famous trophy within English football heritage back in the 1999/2000 season. They even advanced through the first round after getting past St Albans but fell to a defeat in the second round at the hands of Cambridge United.

Brig in recent years have consistently pushed for a promotion to the Premier division where they have fallen short on two occasions, losing in the final stages on both occasions. Firstly in 2014, they were defeated by Ramsbottom United 3-2 which was followed up in the next season as they again lost in the final, this time to Darlington. But in 2018, success finally struck South Ribble as the Briggers’ got their desired promotion after they beat Tadcaster Albion in the semi-finals which lead to them winning 1-0 against Prescot Cables in the final. With the club now sitting at step seven of the pyramid with a remarkably low budget even for the level they’re at, are punching well above their weight. Last season, Jamie Milligan got his side challenging for the play offs in a league they only just began to settle in and they weren’t far off, achieving an impressive sixth finish and missing out on the play-offs by two points. With successful loan spells involving Blackpool duo Rob Apter (now on loan at Scunthorpe United) and Ewan Bange (now on loan at Queen of the South), Brig had enjoyed another year upsetting bigger opponents and achieving an admirable finish in the final standings.

Rob Apter featuring in a friendly for parent club Blackpool.

As for this campaign, Brig have endured another fairly successful start to the campaign, sitting ninth after 18 games and just two points off the play-offs. They’ve not got some of the names on loan as they did last year, but they have recently announced the re-signing of Jamie Thomas following his release from Preston North End. Thomas joined Brig back in the summer of 2021 and took part in their annual friendly against Preston. But, after scoring two screamers against the Lilywhites, he was signed by Frankie McAvoy – Preston boss at the time, in a deal which was heavily supported by Brig gaffer Milligan. But after the move to the championship side didn’t quite become the fairy tale dream that it could’ve been, Thomas has returned to the Sir Tom Finney Stadium and will look to kickstart his season back at Brig followed an operation at the beginning of the campaign. With names like Nathan Pond also within the ranks who brings a wealth of footballing experience after a long stint with Fleetwood Town and midfielder Paul Dawson who is well-known figure around the North West non-league sides, Brig have the right mix of experience and youth to be on the verge of something special.

Nathan Pond playing for Fleetwood Town.

Should Brig manage to get to the National League North, it would be a miracle-like achievement for the club and something Jamie Milligan would surely be classing as his proudest achievement in his early days of management, and should January see more of his contacts used, there’s no reason why Brig should be written off for promotion this season. But in terms of the Lancashire side as a whole, they’re the classic non-league side that still have the traditions that are heartbreakingly disappearing more and more as modern-day football takes control. The ‘chippy’ vans, the ‘non-league Bovril’s’, hearing every word on the pitch (most of which can’t be written here). Non-league football should be celebrated more and more and a tradition which never dies, and whilst modern football is moving further and further away, there are still these types of clubs that live and die by the unwritten rules. With a well-run clubhouse, a great stand for the level and even a very respectable playing surface, Bamber Bridge are still flying the non-league flag high and are a club very much looking up. Follow us on Twitter @ProstInt


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