Allen Bethel deserves an honour to recognise the legacy he has left at Stocksbridge Park Steels, according to chairman Graham Furness.
Bethel stood down last year after over 30 years in the role – a period that saw him lead the creation of the club and oversee the sales of multiple future professional players – most notably Jamie Vardy.
“We wanted to show some recognition for he achieved because without Allen Bethel Stocksbridge Park Steels wouldn’t be here,” Mr Furness told Non League Yorkshire.
“We were going to do something at the end of last season and we got something planned, but Allen wasn’t around for it so we had to cancel.
“I had thought that with Allen being a big Sheffield United fan, get the United legends down for a game against the Stocksbridge legends because it would be very fitting.
“We couldn’t let Allen step down without doing anything for him.
“He deserves some kind of honour and I thought he would have been in line for something because he’s achieved is phenomenal.
“He started all this because there were four kids on an estate who had no way of playing football. Look what it has turned into. The Juniors has over 300 players and without Allen it wouldn’t have started. That’s his legacy.”
Mr Furness, the club’s former reserve team assistant manager, was elevated from his vice-chairman role to succeed Bethel in June 2018.
Bethel had warned his successor that the Steels faced “challenging times” competing with other clubs in the area. Mr Furness admits it is a tough club to run.
“The first year has been tough and a learning curve, but I’ve had a lot of support.” he said.
“When Allen packed up, he knew it was going to be tough for the club. If I’m honest I originally turned the job down because I knew what was around the corner.
“When I first came here we had the backing of the steelworks towards things like ground maintenance, but now we are self sufficient.
“We are trying to increase the number of people through the gates. Plus we have simplified our 500 club lottery and are looking to build on the subscriptions because this is a good source of income for us.
“We have some very good sponsors both large and small who we couldn’t manage without and we are grateful for these.
“Our commercial manager Roger (Gissing) is doing a good job bringing in new advertisers.”
Although Mr Furness is hoping to create a successful future for the Steels, he will not ‘chase the dream’ and allow the club to over-stretch themselves.
“When I first took it on, I said to everyone ‘we’re in this together’,” he said.
“If we want to take it forward we have to build a foundation. I’m not talking National League, but if we can get into the next Division and be sustainable that would be great.
“But it won’t be easy because we don’t have too many income streams.
“When I first came here, I think in 1997, the club always had what I call a contingency fund.
“They had sold Lee Mills, then Simon Marples. They had a fence appeal. Then they sold Jamie Vardy and after that had the pitch appeal.
“Harrison (Biggins) was sold two years ago so this is the first year where we haven’t had what I call the contingency fund.
“It is challenging times. Like at most clubs, it is an ageing volunteer force and volunteers aren’t falling off trees, but we have to get on with it and try to build the club.
“You have to focus on the positives. There are a lot of good things happening at the club. We have excellent facilities, a large junior section and a good young manager who has adjusted his squad this summer and got off to an excellent start taking ten points from the first four games.
“But we will not try and live beyond our means. We have seen too many clubs disappear over years trying to do that. That is one lesson I learned early on from Allen Bethel.
“We don’t try to chase things, there’s no point.”
Mr Furness also paid tribute to manager manager Chris Hilton who endured a tricky campaign in the BetVictor North last season.
Other clubs may have reacted differently to the poor results the Steels recorded, but Mr Furness and his committee stayed loyal to Hilton who has entered his sixth season with Stocksbridge.
“I have a coaching background so when I was made chairman I said to Chris that I would never go to him and say ‘we need to play the Christmas Tree formation or 4-3-3,” he said.
“He’s the manager, that’s why he’s here. I know how hard he works and how good he is with his budget. I probably didn’t know about what he went through (last season) until I saw the comments he came out with to you last month.
“We used to meet on a regular basis at training and I had told him ‘don’t beat yourself up, your principle has worked for the last five years, just stick at it’.
“He had injuries last year and from my point of view he was never under pressure.
“If we had sacked him last Christmas, it would been a rebuild job and players would have been coming and going.
“We stuck at it and we finished mid-table. You’re also not to find many managers who are willing to stick around for five or six years and show such loyalty. It has got to be a two-way thing.”