YMCA project excites Hepworth

Huddersfield YMCA manager Darren Hepworth

Reinvigorated Darren Hepworth is excited about the potential of ambitious Huddersfield YMCA.

Hepworth, who was one of the most popular NCEL managers, stood down as the AFC Emley chief in May after seven years in the Welfare Ground dugout.

Within weeks he dropped down three steps to join the West Yorkshire League Division Two new-boys – a role that works for many reasons.

Although YMCA – whose Laund Hill home hosts various sports – want progress up the pyramid, Hepworth says his new club will not be throwing cash about.

“Getting Huddersfield YMCA into the NCEL is the ultimate aim, but the plan is to really build our infrastructure,” Hepworth told Non League Yorkshire.

“Huddersfield YMCA have a fantastic set-up. The academy and junior set-up is really good.

“They’re also looking to get important diversity projects going as well, such as disability football.

“The club is really looking at the community angle. I have come in to front up the senior side and bolster it. The club is ambitious, but not stupidly.

“We’re not going about things with an open chequebook for instance. The money being spent here is going to be on the infrastructure and making sure the grassroots element is built properly and is sustainable.

“We’re putting 4g pitches in. There’ll be indoor and outdoor things. We’re going to completely re-do the senior pitch and level it, as well as put floodlights and stand in.

“The best thing about it is that the club has a group of business people, but importantly football-loving people behind it. The club has the right infrastructure to make the right decisions for the long-term future of the club.

“This isn’t about spending money on players, far from it. We haven’t got a budget here for players. The players have to pay to play and that’s very different to the environment I’m used to.

“It is really refreshing. Players can chase fivers, whereas I have players who just want to come and play. I’ve had the best summer ever in seven years because I haven’t had to worry about running after players which is an endless game.”

Darren Hepworth watching from the side-lines at Huddersfield YMCA

Darren Hepworth was appointed as the new manager of Huddersfield YMCA in May

Former AFC Emley under 19s manager Richard Spychalski, now the Huddersfield YMCA FC chairman, appointed Darren Hepworth

Since resigning from Emley, who appointed his assistant Joe Howson as his replacement, Hepworth has kept all his loyal 1,369 Twitter followers informed of how his “best summer ever” has been going.

He has given Bradley Wiggins a run for his money as he has cycled the length and breadth of the UK.

Such activities have been enabled by a change in work circumstances, along with his shock departure from Emley – something which was announced at the club’s presentation night.

As it has turned out, the difficult decision has become a correct one as he starts a new job next month.

“It will be London-based and that’s exactly where I thought it might end up,” he said.

“So my reason for leaving Emley was based on that I would probably not be available during the week. That’s turned out to be the case.

“I didn’t know it would definitely happen when I resigned (from Emley), but I pre-empted it. I didn’t want to turn round on July 1st to Emley and say I couldn’t do the job this year, leaving them with a huge problem.

“I also wanted to create some head space for myself because as a manager the season never ends.

“YMCA only play on a Saturday so it is ideal for me. I’ve also got the right people around to run things during the week such as training.”

Darren Hepworth was one of the most passionate and well known managers in the NCEL. Picture: Mark Parson

The sight of Hepworth running to celebrate with his AFC Emley team will no longer be a familiar sight in the NCEL. Picture: Mark Parsons

Darren Hepworth celebrating one of his greatest moments at AFC Emley – the 2013 FA Cup triumph over Wigan Robin Park

Darren Hepworth was in charge of AFC Emley for seven years after replacing Darren Bland in 2010

Opinion will be divided on Hepworth’s long tenure at Emley – which began in November 2010 after future Worksop Parramore boss Darren Bland resigned. There were certainly many memorable moments from 50-yard sprints to celebrate goals to the unforgettable FA Cup win over Wigan Robin Park in 2013.

But the failure of achieving the holy grail of promotion to the Premier Division will forever haunt him.

Emley lost in the play-off final to Bottesford Town in 2016.

They then lost in the play-off semi-final to Penistone – his last game in charge – days after missing out on automatic promotion to Pontefract Collieries by the slender margin of just two goals.

However, Hepworth believes the infrastructure – the club’s under 19s being one element – he helped put into place is a defining feature of his reign.

“I think because the points tally we got was so high and to not go up will always be hard to take,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over that. That said, I’m proud of my time at Emley. I learned a lot.

“I’m proud of the infrastructure that we built and I hope it is still in place in the long-term future.

“Once you move away you want to see what you have done survive and grow. That’s why I’ll always keep an eye on Emley. It is a club dear to my heart and I will try to get to games when I can.

“It is fantastic club and they have been brilliant with me. They have a hard-working committee and fantastic supporters.

“I wish the club all the best and hope they have continued success.”

YMCA kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 1-0 defeat to Toolstation NCEL Division One side Worsbrough Bridge on Saturday.

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