Regular readers of this column will be aware that I am, to put it bluntly, a massive nerd. As such, I take an interest in the history of football and of the club, particularly on the statistical side. When Jed Ward joined recently from Bristol Rovers, I started to wonder where he ‘fits’ into the club’s most recent era.

During the first lockdown back in 2020, I’d started putting together a enormous appearances table, which was intended to record every player to play at least once for Cables’ First Team during the 21st Century.

I had some help; Ken Derbyshire shared a cache of Excel files with me which covered from the 2000-01 season through to 2015-16, and I had my own data from 2016-17 onwards. But there was a snag; the appearances and goals table for 2014-15 wasn’t in Ken’s files and efforts to trace it proved fruitless. So, the massive data table lay in a folder on my laptop, incomplete and almost forgotten.

Fortunately, Ward’s joining the Pesky Bulls coincided with a fortuitous listing on eBay. I managed to acquire the programme from the first home match of the 2015-16 season for the princely sum of 50p (plus postage) and this had the previous season’s figures in it. Almost two years down the line, I was able to fill in the gaps in the records.

Having added the aborted 2020-21 season to the table, it occurred to me that I should probably make sure I had up to date figures for this season and add them too. Having done so, I can now confirm that Jed Ward is the 54th player to make at least one First Team appearance this season and the 587th since the start of the 2000-01 campaign.

Those numbers – especially the first one – look a bit scary at first glance but to be honest, what they reflect is the nature of non-league football. Given that we’ve had two very different managers this season and that Kevin Lynch has worked very hard to build a group which can pull Cables away from the foot of the table, it’s hardly surprising that a higher-than-usual number of players has come and gone, with the equivalent of an entire team – 11 players – having made just one appearance each.

Equally, I’ve long argued that in having a squad as settled as Cables was for as long as it stayed together was incredibly unusual at this level of football. It was going to shift eventually, although under Craig Davies the change was perhaps more rapid and emotionally charged than it needed to be. High player turnover is common when a non-league team is struggling. According to Football Web Pages, our old friends Staines Town have used 65 players to date in their Isthmian League campaign. In our own division, Kendal Town have used 53 different players so far this season and stories of clubs registering more than 100 players in the course of a campaign aren’t unheard of.

At the same time, the numbers show that when players settle at the club, they tend to stay. There are 10 players who made 200 or more First Team appearances in this century and a total of 30 to have participated in at least 100 matches. Given the nature of modern non-league football, where players can sometimes pop up at three or four clubs in a single season, that’s really something.

The squad we have at the moment might not have that much experience of wearing the amber and black, but they do have the connection with the fans that existed during previous seasons. They understand what this club’s about and what it means to be a Pesky Bull. They might not all reach the ‘100 Club’ – in fact some are almost certainly destined to play at much higher levels – but every single player involved will strain every sinew in an effort to defeat an outstanding Leek Town side. Whatever happens this afternoon and in the games that follow, these players have given this club its mojo back and so whatever this season still has to throw at Prescot Cables, we’ll be alright in the end.