Worsbrough Bridge’s stunning 2-1 Toolstation NCEL Division One Barnsley derby victory over glory-chasing local rivals Shaw Lane Aquaforce in March 2014 completed a brilliant double, but also marked the end of a great era for the Park Road club.
Chris Hilton ended his four-year reign one month later, with most of his team departing as well. Midfielder Luke Forgione, who was until recently the assistant manager at Handsworth, recalls his memories of the Shaw Lane fixture, along with his reflections on the Worsbrough team of that period.
“That game is one that is in my top three of games that I ever played. It is a game that I look back on fondly.
“I knew (Shaw Lane owner) Craig Wood myself because I had played for him on a Sunday morning so I knew what was going off and knew that he was forward-thinking and wanted to move up the leagues. He’d taken over Worsbrough Common which had caused some unrest in the local area. People were very negative towards him because of that. I have a lot of time for Woody, I think he is a good bloke.
“We knew it was going to be difficult playing against them too. Clubs with money generally have a better chance of getting promoted and progressing up the leagues.
“We looked forward to playing them. When Athersley Rec were in Worsbrough’s league, there was the local banter between players. It was ‘who’s going to be the best team in the town’? That banter wasn’t there before your Athersley’s, Shaw Lane’s and Penistone’s came in.
“In terms of the Rec, we always had great games. On a Saturday night in the Town when Rec were a County Senior League side us Worsbrough lads used to wind them up saying ‘you’re not playing NCEL Football. So when Rec came into the NCEL it all turned round. So they started giving us some and it was a fun rivalry.
“Shaw Lane came on the scene, but on a whole they didn’t have Barnsley players. There were a few who were like Frosty (Danny Frost), but the majority weren’t. The banter between clubs wasn’t there – especially on a Saturday night in Town. You might not see their players. That’s maybe another reason why they didn’t get the fanbase.
“There was definitely a lot of excitement before the first game (in mid-September) against them. There was over 300 people there which is unknown at Worsbrough. The game was a massive attraction for people in the Town. I didn’t actually play in the game because I was injured so I was one of the fans that night. But I remember Chris White scoring the winner.
“We had a was a special changing room because 50% of that team were a group of lads who had been to school together, that’s myself, Lee Garside, Dean Shirt, Martyn Scully and Ryan Laight. After leaving High School, Dean Shirt’s dad Ian had asked if we wanted to get involved at Worsbrough and we ended up going down there as under 19s. It created a special bond.
“Through Hilts different characters were added to the team. Chris White came along, Scott Turner came in. Adam Podmore was a character. He was a great lad and he was infectious. He had a funny laugh and he’d say stuff. His dad was brilliant and he’d get involved with the banter. We went to the races and his dad would sort out fun buses for us. Liam McFadyen was there as a young lad and he’s gone on to do really well in the NPL. Andrew Broadbent was a really quiet lad, but he was hard-working and played in central midfield with me. We also had James Young, Danny Cawley, Craig Goodyear, Ryan Poskitt – all great players.
“We had a great team spirit, a great camaraderie. We had leaders in the changing room. People who all had the right attitude and all wanted to do well, not just individually, but as friends. So when the Shaw Lane games came around, it stood us in good stead. We didn’t want to let each other down because we were so close knit.
“The social element was key as well. We’d play for Worsbrough on a Saturday and then the New Inn on a Sunday. Myself, Laighty, Garside, Shirty, Chris White, Alex Gillespie, we all spent a lot of time together. The New Inn was basically Worsbrough Bridge on a Saturday. It was a special time because The New Inn were rivals to the Rec and we’d playing against them in the local cup finals as well.
“We had a good season in that final year with Hilts at Worssbrough and we had a great season the year before because we went unbeaten at home the whole year in the league. That is a great achievement because not many teams in the whole of football can say they have done that. It had never been done in Worsbrough’s history before. If our away form had been better we’d finished higher. Even though we finished tenth, I still feel we underachieved and if you asked Hilts the same question, I think he’d say the same. We weren’t far off from the top four. Our strengths were our togetherness, but playing on Sundays hurt us. I always remember playing 45 minutes for the New Inn and then 90 minutes for Worsbrough all on the same Thursday night. That’s because I didn’t want to let down both teams because they were doing so well. So one of our strengths was actually our weakness. But If you can beat Shaw Lane twice and go unbeaten at home all season the year before you’re not a bad team are you? It was maybe because we played Sundays and didn’t have strength-in-depth that we didn’t achieve more.
“It was still a great era and Hilts created the environment at Worsbrough. He recruited the players and manifested the team spirit. I really enjoyed playing for him. He moved onto Stocksbridge and he’s always done really well with them over six seasons. He’s a nice bloke first and foremost and his heart is in the right place. He wants to do well and he wants his players to do well and it is no coincidence that people go back to play for him. I’m not surprised he’s done well.
“He’s not a big shouter, he knows when it is the right time to do it. He’s rational, quite calming. He has those types of behaviours. I personally don’t think you need to start shouting and kicking teacups in the changing room or on the side of a pitch. Hilts is quite reserved. When he does say something, you take notice – whether that is technical or tactical information. I remember when I was playing you can’t hear what’s been said from the side of the pitch anyway. The value of what you’re saying when you do scream and shout isn’t as high as a manager who says something occasionally. He’s that type of manager.
“He’s probably in my top two of the managers I played under, along with Simon Houghton because I had them over a period of time and got to know them. I’ve played under managers like Craig Elliott briefly at Glasshoughton, Billy Fox at Staveley, Eric Gilchrist briefly at Ossett Albion, as well as Nick Handley and Duncan Bray at Pontefract.
“I really enjoyed playing under Simon Houghton at Pontefract and I had a really good relationship with him. He knew how to tick my boxes to motivate me and his man-management was excellent. You’d go home on a Saturday night and you’d get a message off him. I went from Worsbrough playing under Darrell Bowman to playing for Simon at Pontefract and Simon was a totally different style of manager. He was more innovative, more modern. He was ahead of his time. We’d have meetings, tactic boards, information. We didn’t get that kind of information at the time at Worsbrough. It sat me with well and I enjoyed it.
“Simon was the manager of Shaw Lane for the first Worsbrough game, but he had gone by then and Craig Elliott had taken over.
“Looking back at the second game, it was solely about us and them. Our mentality was we’re Worsbrough Bridge and we’ve got no money. We never got paid a dime when I was at Worsbrough, not a single penny. We were solely there because we were friends and loved playing together as a group of people and for the club. Shaw Lane had the money and they were like Man City. We were like a lower league team and it was like a Cup tie. It was that type of game. We just wanted to do well. There were players in that Shaw Lane team who were probably getting decent money – Ash Flynn, John Cyrus, Danny Patterson, Danny Frost, Shane Kelsey, Gary Stohrer, Chris Fawcus. I was always someone who thought if they’re getting paid more money than us then I want to prove to people that I’m a good player or we’re a good team. It was extra motivation for us. We were no mugs either. Laighty had played higher up so had Garside. We felt we were a match for anyone and wanted to prove that again.
“There was a great atmosphere and it is one of the games we always look back on it fondly. It sounds sad that we celebrated a league win because teams celebrate winning leagues and getting into play-offs. But that game was about respect.
“I thought it was a very even game from my vivid memory. I know Ash Flynn put them ahead. Frosty then hit the post. But Garside scored a free kick on the stroke of half-time.
“Danny Patterson got sent off and I think that might have changed the game. It gave us impetus and confidence knowing that we were playing eleven versus ten and obviously Adam Podmore got the winner. It wasn’t easy backs to the wall, but it was a game where we all stuck together and fought for each other. When we came off at the end it was brilliant. We had our music blaring out, with Swedish House Mafia. I remember it because there was a tune at the time. We were dancing about and I will always remember it. The lads were buzzing.
“It was the end of an era because Hilts left and Dave Mace took over and only a few players stayed. I went to Australia a month after the Shaw Lane game so it was one of my final games for the club. When I came back from Oz, I signed for Pontefract and we went onto get promoted. The following year when Mark Joyce was the manager of Worsbrough, I came back to play for them because I didn’t want them to go down. Worsbrough is a club I will always have an affinity with because they have been a big part of my life for ten years.
“Shaw Lane did go onto get promoted that season under Craig Elliott and it is amazing to see what he has achieved in his management career. He is a role model for aspiring coaches and manager and you have to appreciate what he had done and acknowledge it. Yeah he was at Shaw Lane and he had a budget and money, but money doesn’t guarantee you success. He must have done something right with the recruitment, the changing room environment. He is someone I look up to and aspire towards as I’d love to be where he is now at Boston.
“Someone else I look up to is Ian Burchnall, the manager of Ostersunds. He was a Ponte when I was there and he came in and did coaching sessions. He replaced Graham Potter at Ostersunds. I still speak to Burchy now and he’s invited me to Sweden to go over and look at what they do over there. It is maybe something I will take him up on. I look at the Cowley brothers too, they are motivation too. You can see that it can be done. I listened to Curtis Woodhouse on a podcast the other night and he’s got the motivation to go higher. I have the same. I want to step on the Non League ladder and I want to have a crack at it.
“I went to Stocksbridge as part of the backroom staff under Hilts last year and I was with Russ Eagle at Handsworth this year. I’m actively looking.
“I head up a football programme at Barnsley College and I manage three teams so I’m dealing with players every day. Football is my career, my life. I’ve devoted myself to football. I know a lot of the young players coming through the system because I know the College circuit. As a college we had ten lads who have gone into Non League football this year. I’ve also spent a lot of time watching games over the last two years. I’m preparing and feel ready for it. It is just whether I can get an opportunity.”
Luke Forgione was interviewed by James Grayson