Athersley boss Kelsey hopes break will press reset button on Non League Football

New Athersley Rec manager Shane Kelsey

New Athersley Rec manager Shane Kelsey hopes the break will press the reset on Non League football and make clubs reconnect with their communities.

Kelsey is fully committed to playing local and young players when Government restrictions are lifted and he believes that philosophy will be the key to success on-and-off-the-field at Athersley.

The former Ossett Albion striker, in his first managerial post, says he has seen money poison Non League football and he hopes other clubs follow his approach.

“We are going to try and get the club back to its roots – a self-sufficient community based club which produces its own players,” Kelsey told Non League Yorkshire.

“I know there is groundwork to be done, but the club understands that.

“The club went through its golden period when I was growing up with players such as your Ryan and Adam White’s, Ritchie Green – those sort of players who went right through the juniors teams to the first team.

“Those players have got older and football has evolved to be more money-orientated. Players from Barnsley were going elsewhere to follow the money and Athersley couldn’t compete.

“I had three years out and I got back into it running my son’s under 7s side at Athersley. That kick-started me getting back into the men’s game and obviously I can see the bigger picture.

“Everyone has pie in the sky dreams like saying ‘I’m going to bring players through right from the U7s and they are going to go all the way to the first team’. But I have been at too many teams where there hasn’t been a pathway. Shaw Lane had no reserves and no youngsters came through.

“There’s other teams who have had limited success where they’ve just thrown money at it. I don’t want to do that. I want to build something and have a relationship with the community.

“I want to try and keep players in Barnsley. I know it sounds daft, but they say every cloud has a silver lining and I hope what we’re going through at the minute is a reboot to Non League Football.

“I hope the silly spending is gone and teams concentrate more on a player-based approach rather than a money based approach where they develop their own players and give them chances.

“I say this to everyone ‘spend what you want but don’t put a 100-year-old club on the brink of going bust’. If someone wants to throw money at it, that’s fine, it is their money.

“Clubs have lost their identities in their communities because of money, but money in Non League football hasn’t changed. £150 in 1990 with the rate of inflation is probably bang on the £300s or £400s you hear some players getting now.

“You go back to my Ossett Albion days where we had a local side and you could have that. But then you had your FC United’s coming into the league, your Halifax Town’s, your Chester’s and teams had to step up to try and compete with them. That’s when even more silly money started coming in.

“It was the same when Shaw Lane came in because teams tried to compete with them. Then you start looking for better quality players from outside your area and that’s where your community goes out of the window.”

Athersley are renowned for developing local players. You can go right back to the 1990s to find Geoff Horsfield as their headline name. In more recent times, Jason Bentley, Ryan White and Adam White are three of the more familiar players who have played for the Rec man and boy.

Kelsey admits playing local players also has its off-the-field benefits.

“If you have local players playing, local people will come through the gate, that’s my other point,” he said.

“When a local lad is playing or has an identity to the area, you’re going to get his mates coming, his mum and dad will want to come. You’ll have a feel good factor around the club. Athersley used to get big crowds and they used to be the 12th man.

“I always remember the Shaw Lane game when Athersley won 6-3 and there were a 1000 there.”

Athersley were bottom of the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division when results were expunged.

It was a difficult season as the Rec bravely chose to field a predominately young side to give their youngsters NCEL experience.

Kelsey, who was player/coach, agrees that it was a tough six months, but says the decision has paid dividends and has built a platform for next season.

The Rec boss also outlined his recruitment plans.

“The resources we do have shrinks the postcode area that you’re going to attract players from,” Kelsey said.

“I’m concentrating on young and experienced players who want to play football for the right seasons and youngsters who are hungry to play football.

“In a perfect world you want 11 lads from Barnsley playing for Athersley, but in reality that might be hard.

“The cost of living for youngsters these days is too much and when £40 or £50 is offered in a young lad’s face, especially when he is at University. Back in my day it was £5 and a lift to training twice a week.

“Now it might cost a kid £30 to fill his car up to come twice a week.

“It will be difficult to recruit players. We made a decision to blood youngsters last year in preparation for next season so they are not going into it green. Now we are going to have youngsters who have got ten or 20 games behind them.

“It may have been beneficial as a squad to take a step down so they would have been more competitive.

“We went into last season with players who had not played a game in the NCEL and we had a woefully small squad. The damage was done early doors, but as time went on you can see with the results. There were sevens or eights at the beginning, but gradually we became more competitive.

“But at least now with the reprieve, the lads will go into next season more prepared and they won’t be thrown in at the deep end totally unprepared.

“I think with what is going on we will see sides with different squads and we should be more settled. I want to add one or two to the squad who will be right for the squad and the youngsters.”

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