Simon Houghton is rated as one of the best NCEL managers of the past decade.
Current and ex-players talk about him in such high-regard. No-one has a bad word. It is also telling how many have played for him at his numerous clubs.
But family circumstances and controversial sackings at Pontefract Collieries and Shaw Lane AFC have prevented the born-winner from being able to write an NCEL promotion as a sole or joint manager onto his CV.
There is of course glory with Kinsley Boys prior to his first NCEL appointment with Pontefract Collieries in 2008 and promotions as an assistant at Glasshoughton Welfare in 2012 and Athersley Rec in 2013.
Now with Jason Dodsworth at his side, is Nostell Miners Welfare the right place where he can finally achieve that elusive promotion as a number one been found? Houghton certainly thinks so and a few hours in the attic this week has reawakened fond memories of his footballing yesteryear and given him a taste for more success.
“From a personal point of view, it is difficult for me because of the time I can put in,” Houghton tell Non League Yorkshire.
“I have a stressful job, I’ve got my children to think of so I can’t always put the time in that a lot of other managers can.
“It did rankle at the time, but it does’t now. At Pontefract I should have been left to finish the job and we were on course for promotion that season.
“At Shaw Lane we would have got promoted that season, but I understood it. He (chairman Craig Wood) was right with his decision.
“Maybe a promotion as a manager or joint manager should be on my CV, but I’ve also missed seasons as well and that’s why I have gone in as joint managers (at Glasshoughton in 2016 and now Nostell).
“I wouldn’t say that because a Division One promotion as a manager is missing from my CV that it spurs me on. I want to be successful anyway and I want to win. If I’m giving up my time, I want to win.
“I want promotions. I’ve been clearing the house out this week and the kids have been looking at all my medals and asking ‘what did you get this for dad’?
“You look back and I have a lot of trophies and great memories, but it is all in the past. You do think sometimes it would be nice to do it my own way and get that promotion.
“Nostell is set up to do it and hopefully we can do it next season. I see no reason why myself, Jase, Ryan (Poskitt), Bally (Wayne Ball) can’t do it, we have the experience and contacts to achieve it.”
Houghton and Dodsworth arrived at the Crofton Community Centre on a magic carpet. The pair immediately ended three years of decline, moving them away from trouble and raising the bar by setting their sights on a return to the Premier Division in 2019.
Results quickly came, as did heavy-duty signings, notably Handsworth Parramore star Joe Thornton. Jack Owen became their match-winner with a string of stunning performances.
The incredible 4-1 win over Selby Town on a Friday night in February captured the imagination and heralded the new era of which would see Nostell become a real force to be reckoned with.
It has not gone Houghton and Dodsworth’s way since. Welfare have won two in seven. Although they look safe, Houghton reckons their players thought it was job done after the Selby win.
“We have said to the players that ‘you have dragged us out of this mess, now you’re putting us back into it’,” he says.
“The players have to believe. Yeah they are not going to play brilliant every week, but we need players who are going to be six or seven every week.
“We have players who are one week nine and four the next. You are not going to win many games that way and that’s the current problem.
“When we playing teams at the top we seem to raise our game. When we are playing middle of the road teams who aren’t really playing for anything, we just don’t seem to be at it.
“On that Friday night against Selby, we were on fire and we ripped them apart. Since Selby, I think some of the players have thought if they can beat Selby, we can beat anyone.
“It doesn’t work like that. Unfortunately we peaked against Selby and it has gone downhill from there. We’ve told them, you can’t turn it on-and-off like a tap, you have to be at full throttle every game.”
Those two wins came against AFC Emley and East Yorkshire Carnegie. They played really well at Emley, but despite beating Carnegie, the performance was not at the level it should be.
Defeats to Hallam, Swallownest and Ollerton Town have followed. The Ollerton clash saw Nostell batter their visitors, but somehow lose 2-0.
Houghton admits things aren’t going their way.
“I wasn’t happy after that East Yorkshire Carnegie game, yeah we won, but we should have won at a canter,” he said.
“I thought we were going through the motions and that’s obviously moved on and had an effect since then.
“We have to roll ourselves sleeves up and get going again. We are testing the lads because we want to see what they are made of. Next season we want to go for the league and players have to accept that, whilst they can be off it one week, they can’t be off it two weeks.
“In the instance of the Ollerton game, we had all the possession and the chances, but it typifies our form at the minute, lady luck seems to have deserted us.
“Chances what were going in aren’t now and we’re finding it difficult to score goals. We had plenty of chances today, but we didn’t stick them away.
“It is obviously a confidence thing going through the team. We also have an inability to keep a clean sheet. We have only done that once since we have been here.
“We need to address that because the defence need to give us something to build on. Saying that, the forwards have to get the defence out of it sometimes and get us in front to give us something to hold onto.
“The forwards we have got are fantastic and most teams in this Division would be buzzing to have these players. Hopefully things will turn for us.”
One major highlight of Houghton and Dodsworth’s reign has been the team spirit, more so off it.
The Nostell players and management stayed for hours after the Friday night win over Selby. Reports suggest the Showman Ryan Poskitt had to be carried by four men into a taxi at 5am.
Houghton agrees that the social side is hugely important and the spirit created already bodes well for next season – if they are going to go for glory.
“We have had one long night, I think it was five in the morning when we all got home, I won’t be doing that again,” laughs Houghton.
“It is good that we have a good social environment. To have a successful team you need the lads get on well socially.
“We need to have more social gatherings because we need to come together off-the-field and get to know each other.
“We haven’t had chance to have a proper night out. We came in during December and that’s a write-off because of Christmas. So is January as everyone is short of money.
“But it is something we will be doing more of.”
So if Nostell win promotion next year, how long will the party be?
“It will be light, definitely light, it might even be two days long,” Houghton adds.
It could be some year if Houghton and Dodsworth get their way.