Local lad Billy Akrigg believes the time is right to seek a fresh challenge away from Lancaster City.
The box-to-box midfielder announced this week that he will be leaving Giant Axe after five years at the club.
Signed from West Lancashire League outfit Slyne with Hest at the age of 19, Akrigg has been an integral member of the first-team squad over the past half decade.
He played a prominent part in the club’s glorious NPL First Division North title success last year and helped the club consolidate their position in the Premier Division this season.
However, with a heavy heart, Akrigg – who is 25-years-old – has decided that he would like to challenge himself elsewhere and is set to sign for another Premier Division outfit, believed to be Stalybridge Celtic.
“It’s something that I had to do for myself,” said Akrigg.
“I needed a new challenge. I’ve been a long time at Lancaster. I have had a really enjoyable time.
“It’s been a little bit of a dream come true to play for the club.
“I used to watch Lancaster before I signed and started playing for them.
“I remember watching them for many years.
“It’s just the motivation part of it – it’s hard to keep going at the same club for so long with the same drive.
“I just need that new challenge, a new experience.
“I don’t want to look back at my football career and regret not having had another experience that I should have had.
“I would rather try something and fail – at least I can say I did it.”
Akrigg had the same bullish attitide when he arrived at Giant Axe five years ago.
And he has not ruled out the possibility of wearing the colours of the Dolly Blues once again in the future.
“Obviously I had played for Slyne in the West Lancashire League before I came to Lancaster,” he said.
“I did well at that level and I just thought I would give it a shot with Lancaster.
“It’s turned out well. Five years and 200 appearances later; a lot of people said when I left Slyne that I could not do it and I wasn’t good enough.
“It’s been a very enjoyable time. I arrived when I was 19 and so it’s been a good five years.
“And you never say never; I might be back in a few years time. You don’t know what might happen in the future.”
The highlight for Akrigg of his time with the Dolly Blues is undoubtedly winning the league , but he also looks back at the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy final against Chorley in 2016 wth fondness.
After drawing 2-2 against the National League North outfit, City were agonisingly beaten on penalties at Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium.
“Winning promotion last season – that was massive,” said Akrigg.
“I think we will look back in 20 years’ time and realise how big a deal it was.
“It was a great day at Glossop North End on the final day when we won it.
“Winning promotions and getting to finals don’t come around too often. If you look at people like Glenn Steel, he’s been around the block, but I think he had only been promoted once before.”
Meanwhile, manager Phil Brown admitted he was disappointed to see Akrigg leave, but wished him all the best for the future.
“I had a chat with Billy and he said that he wanted a fresh challenge,” Brown said.
“I think another club had spoken to him and whether that had sparked something in his head.
“We had a chat at the end of last season where he had said something similar, which on the back of winning a league title, I did not understand his reasoning.
“But he saw the sense in that and stayed for the season.
“If he feels that he needs to go somewhere else, then that’s his choice. He is in charge of his own destiny.
“But he’s a very professional and committed player. I know he’s had a lot on his plate with setting up his new business, but it never affected his performances .
“He played a lot of football for me and I’m disappointed to see him go. But I thank him for his efforts and wish him all the best.”
Brown revealed that he has spoken to 95% of his existing squad and they have all indicated that they will be returning for pre-season training.
The City boss added that he’s looking to bring in a three or four new players.