The Evo-Stik League Northern Premier
Published 10th July 2012
.....ahead of the start of the new season by swooping to bring in two highly-rated players from demoted Northwich Victoria.
The signings of both 23-year-old Michael Clarke and 30-year-old Steve Abbott are regarded as major coups as Rushall are determined to build and improve upon last season`s final league position of eighth in what was their debut season in the Premier Division of the NPL.
Clarke, a powerful, athletic and mobile forward and Abbott, a highly technical and experienced midfielder with an eye for goal are major captures for the Pics and manager Neil Kitching is looking to them both to boost the Pics strike power for the forthcoming campaign,
“I am thrilled by our latest two signings. Michael Clarke is a highly-sought after young forward talent, while Steve Abbott is a very experienced player at this level and both will be a huge boost to our squad.
“We are well aware that we need to score more goals following our great first season at the level and I`m sure that these two lads will certainly help us in our quest to hit the net with greater regularity.”
The Pics’ general manager Terry Brumpton and vice-chairman Nick Allen are both equally upbeat about the two signings. Allen commented: “We are absolutely delighted that we have managed to bring in both Michael Clarke and Steve Abbott.
“Clarke is the biggest signing in the club`s history and I believe that this will really send out a message to everyone that we are certainly looking to establish our club in this division.
“Negotiations were protracted with Northwich to secure Michael Clarke on contract at the Pics and I think that this does show our ambition to compete and progress. In saying that, we will continue to move Rushall Olympic forward as a community club on a sound financial footing and within our model of sustainable growth.”
Clarke spent the early part of his career with Woodley Sports and in December 2010, having netted nine league and cup goals for the Stockport-based outfit, signed for First Division North champions-elect Chester FC after being watched by the Blues for some time.
Unfortunately his time at the Exacta Stadium proved short-lived, leaving in January 2011 after making just one appearance and subsequently returned to former club Woodley Sports. However, in March 2011 Northwich swooped to sign the front-runner ahead of the transfer deadline.
A long-time target for the Vics the striker signed contract terms, running until the end of season 2011/12.
Abbott is a tall and versatile Knowsley-born target man or combative midfielder with a keen eye for a goal.
A powerful presence and a natural leader in the side, he was named as the Vics` caretaker boss for a couple of games last season following the shock departure of former manager Andy Preece.
At the Victoria Stadium he was a key member of the squad who finished runners-up to Chester FC in the NPL Premier Division, before finding themselves omitted from the promotion play-off’s and demoted to First Division North after breaking league Rules.
Having begun his career with Wigan Athletic and featuring for Congleton Town and St Helens Town, summer 2006 saw him link up with Team Bath from Leigh RMI after becoming student at the University of Bath.
He went on to become a member of the England Universities team that won the British University Games title in Swansea in April 2006.
His performances in Team Bath colours, along with a very healthy goalscoring record for a midfielder of thirty in eighty appearances, not only helped lift the Scholars to promotion to the Blue Square Bet South, but also attracted the attentions of several Football League and Conference Premier sides.
After completing a degree in Coach Education and Sports Development and going on to do a Post Graduate Certificate in Education, during summer 2008 he entered the full-time game on a two-year deal after impressing former Wrexham manager Dean Saunders on trial with the club. However, after finding it difficult to break into the first team ranks at the Racecourse Ground, he was loaned to Welsh outfit The New Saints in August 2009, where he remained at Park Hall for the rest of the campaign – helping them to the Welsh Premier and League Cup `double`.
During the summer of 2010 he signed for AFC Telford United, but after finding himself down the pecking order at the New Bucks Head in November 2010 he linked up with Chorley on a one month loan.
Following a similar loan spell with Chasetown in February 2011 he signed for Northwich during the summer of 2011, despite interest from Conference clubs and ultimately took up the role of vice-captain.