RYAN Cresswell is out to make a success of a new start in football amidst an ongoing battle with alcohol.
The former Rotherham United skipper has joined the coaching staff at Parkgate FC after a Football League career that stretched to nearly 300 matches.
Part of it was plagued by drink problems that the one-time Millers skipper from Swinton has spoken openly and honestly about.
The wrench of finally stopping playing the game he loves has only added to the challenges but Cresswell, now 33, hopes there are better times ahead.
“I'm still receiving help, and quite aggressive help at the minute, which I think is why this coaching post comes at a great time,” he said. “It keeps me occupied and gets me back into football.
“When you stop playing you don't realise how much you do love it and you miss it.
“That buzz you get from playing, it's irreplaceable.
“Football is my therapy, it always was. Find a job you love and you never work a day in your life, that's what they say.
“I think that is important so to have it taken away from you is like someone ripping your heart out. I know it sounds a bit dramatic but it really is.”
Cresswell has lots to give to the game. After starting out at Sheffield United, his football journey included a two-year stay at Rotherham from 2010-12 before going on to win promotions with Fleetwood and Northampton.
He believes he would have played many more times but for injuries caused, in part, by alcohol.
“When it got bad, I was picking up injuries left, right and centre,” he explained. “I would go for a drink after training and you just don't know when to leave. You don't leave and then I'd go to training the next day and pretend I was alright.
“Come Saturday when I'm playing, I'd tear my hamstring and it is no coincidence. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. There's no better saying really and that was me. I just couldn't get out of the habit.”
Since leaving Northampton five years ago, Ryan has spent time in non-league at Eastleigh, Boston United and Bradford Park Avenue before the onset of the pandemic, and life in lockdown, brought added pressures and too much free time.
“Listen, an alcoholic doesn't need an excuse,” he said. “He can find his own but with the stress of Covid I know plenty of people close to me who have had a rough time. It's been hard.
“I have struggled in recent times but I'm bouncing back again.”
The key for Cresswell is keeping busy.
He has completed his Level 1 and Level 2 coaching badges and is close to completing his UEFA B qualification. After that, he'll go for the A badge and he's also setting up a kids' coaching school.
“I think I have a lot to give back to the game,” he says. “I have learned a lot and worked with some fantastic managers.
“Coaching wise, I'd like to think players will respect me. You have to earn that respect but when I speak I think people will listen and I'm starting now at Parkgate to add some tools to my box.
“I've hovered around for a bit in non-league but I don't regret it because it got me experience and stands me in good stead.
“It wasn't the same feel or togetherness as being full time. It was difficult for me to grasp but seeing the coaching side and being able to help other people was good.”
Cresswell played very briefly for Parkgate last year. He hurt his knee and then hurt it again in a charity match and needed reconstruction surgery.
It was a sure sign his future lays elsewhere.
Now he's got a chance to start a new chapter guiding others alongside Parkgate manager Andy Dawson and his assistant Lee Whitehead, and he's been typically honest and open with them about the good and the bad parts of his life.
“Personal life is personal life but I am not a secretive person in that respect,” he added.
“Everything is out on the table. You know me, you take me for what I am.
“This is the start of a journey and I'm really looking forward to it. Let's see where it leads to.”
FLEDGLING coach Ryan Cresswell wants to take a few of Paul Warne's qualities on his coaching journey.
The two played in the same Rotherham United side during the club's time at Don Valley Stadium at a time when Warne's career was winding up.
Although Cresswell didn't see a manager in him at the time, he spotted a man who could bring the best out of others.
“He was a team-mate and fitness coach,” remembers Ryan. “He was demanding back then but I had the pleasure of going in and training a few times after I had a knee operation and he really got me involved with the squad.
“He's a good manager. I didn't know he was going to be a manager when I was playing with him but his honesty and the commitment and the enthusiasm, it's infectious. Chris Wilder and Alan Knill are the same.
“I want to take that with me and let that be a part of me but I also want to be my own person.
“Fresh start, new start, and hopefully I can build a career on it.”
PARKGATE say it was a “no brainer” to have Ryan Cresswell on board next season.
The Steelmen, looking for year on year improvements in the second tier of the Northern Counties East League, believe he will command the respect of their players given the level he has played at.
Manager Andy Dawson said: “As soon as Cressy mentioned he would be interested, it was a no brainer for us. His experience and knowledge within the game will no doubt be invaluable at our level.
“He is a local lad who has shown a real interest in the club since we initially spoke about him becoming a coach and I'm sure the players will be excited to see what he can bring to the club.”
Assistant Lee Whitehead added: “We have a lot of young lads this year and what they can learn from Ryan on and off the pitch will be invaluable.
“He will have different ideas to what myself and Andy have, and it can only improve on what we do. It's the next step for us to try and push further up the league table.”