By Adam Harrison

CALLUM Grogan is set to make his 100th appearance for Radcliffe FC in the club's showdown clash with league leaders Atherton Collieries a week on Saturday.

The centre-back is only 21 years old and not exactly a local lad coming from Shrewsbury, but he has settled into becoming something of an established fixture at the heart of the Boro side over the last couple of years.

Like his Neuven Stadium team-mates, he is preparing for two huge games in the club's bid to win promotion from Evo-Stik West this season as they welcome the side level on points with them but one place behind in third on goal difference, Runcorn Linnets, on Saturday before a potentially pivotal game in Boro's bid for glory at Collieries seven days later.

That latter match will mark the 100th Boro appearance for Grogan who has had two spells with the club.

He had a loan spell from Shrewsbury, the success of which led to him joining permanently.

He has netted 10 goals from defence since joining in 2016 and has quickly become something of a fans' favourite around the Neuven with some brilliant performances.

The defender puts a lot of his success down to his youth career which he believes helped him grow up quickly and learn the men’s game earlier than he might otherwise have done.

“My youth career was great," he said, "especially getting the chance to go to Shrewsbury to play full-time football and move away from home.

"I had to grow up in a lot of ways, which was hard but something I really enjoyed alongside my football.

“Radcliffe have been massive in helping me develop and become a better player.

"The club have given me the chance to play competitive men’s football at a great level, which is something I am very grateful for.”

Grogan says he has relished his time at Boro where he has had the chance to learn from seasoned professionals in manager Jon Macken, assistant Frank Sinclair and coach Kevin Campbell, plus the chance to play against established strong non-league sides up and down the country in the likes of South Shields, Scarborough and Curzon Ashton.

The Liverpudlian's huge improvement during his time at Boro has not gone unnoticed by fans and his fellow players.

In the absence of Kingsley Williams and Rick Smith, he has been handed the captain's armband, which shows the esteem in which he is held at the Neuven.

“I think it is an advantage for us lads to be able to work with people like the gaffer, Frank and Kev," he said. "Whether it’s coaching or just bits of advice off the pitch.

“I count myself very lucky to have that; they are great to work with and learn from.”

Liverpool fan, Grogan, remembers his first real taste of non-league football with the Boro – a long trip to Scarborough in a tough clash with the now Evo-Stik Premier side.

“I remember going up to Scarborough in my first spell at Radcliffe on loan," he said.

"They were up at the top of the table and we were down the other end. "We ended up beating them 3-2, I think Frank Van Gills scored two belters on the day.

“I remember on the long journey home everyone getting fish and chips and a load of ale for the coach journey.

"This was my first taste of being part of a proper non-league football club, and what it was like, and I loved it!”

Last season’s players' player and player of the season, Grogan has continued his good form in this campaign, and his level of performance is one of the main reasons Boro are second in the table.

He says he has seen positive development on and off the field during his two years at the club, but adds expectations have not changed.

“The changes at Boro have been massive," he said. "It’s a great club to be at and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.

“The expectations on the pitch haven’t changed much. Last season wasn’t a great one but since the gaffer has come in, expectations have always been basic and the same.

"To work hard and give everything in every game. It’s just the personnel and the ability levels that have changed.”

Of his 10 goals for Boro it was his first in the FA Cup which stands out.

“My favourite goal has to be away at Burscough last season in the FA Cup," he said. "I volleyed it straight from the corner, it was a great goal.

“Every time we win, in particular this season, going in the changing rooms and seeing everyone’s faces made up and buzzing gets better every time.”