Jason Dodsworth’s Non League Journey

Pete Goodlad gave Jason Dodsworth his first chance in football

To say he is regarded as one of the top and most popular managers in the NCEL, Jason Dodsworth’s route to the dugout was very unconventional. 

Even the top managers take untraditional routes though. André Villas-Boas’ coaching pathway began with him putting a note under former England and Newcastle United manager Sir Bobby Robson’s door in Portugal during Robson’s time as Porto boss. Villas-Boas has never played a professional game, but has winning the Europa League on his CV. Jose Mourinho’s entry into Football was as Robson’s translator at Sporting Lisbon. Look what he has won.

Mourinho and Villas-Boas’ paths show that it is about having the ambition and being in the right place at the right time to meet the right people.

For Dodsworth, it started as a tussle with Shane Kelsey over the chalk on the Ashfield Pub snooker table. Referees probably think ‘if only Kelsey and Anthony Smith had never taken him to an Athersley game…’ Dodsworth became a keen fan of the Rec and was ready to say ‘yes’ when Pete Goodlad needed help managing their Saturday and Sunday sides.

Dodsworth, the quiet man of the touchline has since managed games on park pitches and at world class facilities. He’s even ‘taken charge’ of a side like Bear Grylls by watching through overgrown bushes and trees.

He’s enjoyed massive success, initially with ‘father figure’ Goodlad at Athersley Rec where the pair conquered all before them on a Saturday and a Sunday winning trophy after trophy. With their Saturday side, they guided the Rec into the Northern Counties East League – and won the 2014 Sheffield Senior Cup after pulling off one of Non League’s greatest upsets by beating Frickley Athletic.

Success with Simon Houghton at Nostell Miners Welfare has been the most recent chapter and he’s keen to add more as he recently become part of Louis Axcell’s management team at Maltby Main.

We’ve already spoken to Dodsworth about Athersley’s Senior Cup triumph so we’ve probed deeper into his mind to dig out some further memories.

This is Jason Dodsworth’s Non League Journey:

Jason Dodsworth is a popular figure on the Non League circuit

“The journey has been unbelievable and I am very lucky to have gone into management and where I am now in the Non League game. People seem to think you have to have been a good player to be a good manager. I disagree. I wasn’t the best player. I used to play local now and then on a Sunday before I started going to Athersley. I could strike a ball, but I think playing snooker with Kelsey and drinking meant I put too much weight on.

“I enjoyed helping Pete and it led from there. I’m still a young manager and I’m still learning a lot. Along with Pete, I speak on the phone regularly to Hilts (Chris Hilton) and Wayne Benn as they are three managers I have the upmost respect for as well as quite a few others in the NCEL who all do a good job.”

The Snooker Days 

Jason Dodsworth as a youngster

“I was in my early 20s, I used to go into the Ashfield pub for a few pints during the afternoon and play snooker with Ant Smith who used to play for Athersley. Shane (Kelsey) used to come in with one of his best mates ‘Sheep-dip’. Kels and Ant used to shoot off to the Rec’s matches wherever that was. I never played much Saturday football, but that was probably because I had never had a dad growing up so I never got took anywhere to play football. It is something I never did and it is probably a regret because you know how much I love football. I just used to stay in the Ashfield drinking and wait for them to come back so we could go into the Town. I had a brainwave one day and I just said to Kelsey and Ant if I could go with them to watch a game. I did and I got the bug there and then. 

Ant Smith and Shane Kelsey are the men responsible for letting Dodsworth loose in football

“They used to play at Carlton Park and it was great. They were in the County Senior League and there were some great lads. I got to know them and became best mates with them all. When I first went down there was this angry man with a flag every week going ballistic. It turned out to be Pete who became and still is a big part of my life. 

“It was around 2003 and you had the likes of Ryan White, Matthew Thompson, Adam White, Ant Smith, Alan Smith, the best Non League forward I’ve ever seen because he was unbelievable, Richard Green, Nick Gillott, Scott Alcock. They all came through the junior sides together and Pete added a couple in when they went into the County Senior League. But I think they were so good because they had been together that long. It was a special group. Sometimes when they were short I’d play now and again. It was very rare that I played on a Saturday, but I would on the odd occasion on a Sunday morning I’d be on the bench.

“I started going all the time to watch them on a Saturday and Sunday and as daft as it sounds I was just a fan to begin with. I’d go back to Athersley Sports Centre with them where they’d get changed and have a drink and on a Sunday we’d have to carry the posts down to the ground through the estate.”

Pete Goodlad 

Sean Margison, Pete Goodlad and Dodsworth with the Senior Cup in 2014

“I slowly got to know Pete through going to watch and one day he asked me if I could give him a hand. I snapped his hand off and from there I became his assistant manager. It was incredible that he was running a Saturday and Sunday side on his own as well as the club. He’s just unbelievable. I don’t think I’ll meet anyone who has done what he has done with no real financial backing. It is remarkable. Pete wasn’t just a manager. He was like a father, certainly to me and I’m sure others will say the same. He treated everyone like his own kids. He’s one of my best mates, but more like a father. It is not just me, but he is always there for everyone. You can ring him up about anything. I still ring him all the time.”

Sunday Morning Memories 

Athersley during one Sunday side triumph

“I’ll always remember one game against HSBC in the County Senior League. A lad called Thomas Rushforth, who was a fantastic player, was through on goal after five minutes into the game and he was 25 yards out. Porkie was shouting ‘time Rushy, tha got time’. Rush of blood and he’s hit it straight at the ‘keeper. Next thing ‘sub ref’. I said ‘what tha doing Pork’? He said ‘no, his head’s not right’.” We probably won the game because Pork always seemed to have a tendency to do rash things during a game, but get away with it. It was before my time, but there’s a story of him taking three players off ten minutes into a cup final when they were 2-0 down. You laugh, but they won 3-2. 

“The reason we had so much success was because the lads were serious about it because they knew how serious Pete was. So Saturday nights when people would be out on the town, the lads were staying in and having a few in the house so they were ready for Sunday morning – barring Ant Smith who went out every Saturday night without fail. So we never really had to drag anyone out of bed because they knew Porkie would have them.

Pete Goodlad, the young White brothers Ryan and Adam, and Jason Dodsworth

“If we drew a lower league team in the Cup I’d be a sub and I’d come on and bag a few goals. We were away at Darfield or somewhere and we’d all been out the night before because it was a team from Division 5. We all turned up and everyone was ‘blindo’. We kicked off and Porkie was on the flag on other side. The lads were passing the ball, falling over. One was having a drink while passing the ball. Next thing I saw was Pete throw the flag down and come walking round the pitch and I said ‘what tha doing’. He said ‘f****** ridiculous this, disrespecting the opposition, I’m off, I’ve got a book to read’. He got in the car and drove home. Well I say that, he was actually stuck in the car park. He was blocked in. The game stopped and we were all laughing as he was doing a 20 point turn to get out of the car park. 

“Scott Alcock and Martin Fox once turned up as dressed as women from the fancy dress party the night before and played. They had all the make-up on and Ryan White rolled up as Hulk Hogan. He had to take his suit off though. Pete just laughed it off. Because of how good they were, there used to be games where you kind of knew when you could go out and when you couldn’t. That no disrespect to anyone, but that was Sunday morning football. 

Dodsworth celebrating

“We were away at Royston and we were late and Porkie has forgot the water bottles. He used to do literally everything so it is not surprising that he would forget things now and then. He said to me ‘get them warm, I’ll go to the shop to get some bottles of water’. We kicked before he got back. His car rolls up and he starts walking over and I thought ‘what’s he got here’? Because they had no water in the shop so he fetched one bottle of milk back with him for the lads! 

“Pete has chased players off the pitch. I think it was centre-half who played for Hoyland. Porkie put his flag up and it was very rare that he did. He used to leave it down and say ‘they shouldn’t be scoring against you’. He’d never cheat. But that day the centre-half shouted ‘get your flag down you cheating whatever’. Porkie threw the flag and set off walking saying ‘what tha say’? The centre-half didn’t move and everyone’s looking at him and he went ‘what’s he going to do? Everyone was like ‘he’s f****** kill thee’. The kid ran off, jumped in the car and drove off in his kit. 

“But I would say is that people thought he was just a motivator, but he’s a very clever bloke who knew a lot about the game. 

“Ry White and everyone else did me up like a kipper in one game. I fetched myself on and they had concocted a plan where they weren’t going to pass the ball to me. So I was playing upfront and I was running around getting into space and asking for the ball and they weren’t passing to me. I was going barmy and they were laughing. I think I had the last laugh as I scored a last hat-trick. It got to the stage where they got into the box and they had to square it to me.   

“I snapped my cruciate ligament one Sunday. I did it when I was chasing a bad ball from Ryan White. I was through and as I turned, my cruciate snapped. The air ambulance nearly had to come. I had to have full knee reconstruction. 

“The lads shaved my hair one night when I fell asleep in Nick Gillott’s flat. They blamed Frenchy him who once fell down a banking. I woke up and was walking down the steps and I just heard one of them say ‘he looks like Friar Tuck’. I just stopped and thought ‘please not me’. I put my hand on my head and they had shaved the middle out of my hair. That’s Porkie, Greeny, Tommo, Nick Gillott and Martin Hirst for you.

“We never really had any brawls. Teams didn’t like Athersley as they were the best on the pitch. Back when I started, every game on a Sunday was brilliant. They were solid, competitive and we played some really good sides. We had some great battles against the New Inn and other teams.

“We won everything on a Sunday. We had two finals a year at Oakwell and the Sheffield Cup which was the big one. We didn’t win that every year because you had the best teams into it, but we always came close. But I think we had three when I was involved. Two at Bramall Lane and one at Doncaster when we beat The Joker 1-0 and Chris Fawcus scored an own goal from about 40 yards. I’ll never forget it as he lobbed his own goalkeeper. 

“It shows how good the lads were because there was always a backlog – especially when we got into the NCEL. It was Saturday-Sunday-Tuesday and it was basically the same team each game. I do admit that a lot of the lads could have played a lot higher.”

Saturday Football

“I think they were in the County Senior Premier when I started to go watch and the older end, your Ken Wordsworth’s were playing. It then turned into your Scott Alcock’s, Nick Gillott’s, Jason Bentley’s. 

“I got involved and we were in a good strong league. Every game you had big strong sides like Springwood Davy from Sheffield. You see now in the NCEL some of the players who used to play at that level. Mexborough Main Street were a good side back then. That’s who Danny and Rich Patterson started playing for when we were in the County Senior League. 

“We used to have our main ding-dongs with Sheffield sides. I wasn’t managing at the time, I was just watching, but we played a team called Caribbean. So this Caribbean team, they were fighting each other over who was was going to kill Alan Smith. He must have really wound them up because Pete and the lads had to put Alan in a kit-bag and carry him out to get him out of the ground safely. 

“I signed Jamie Williams from Wombwell during this particular season and I’d known him a long time and we also signed a goalkeeper called Jody Beadling. They called him Joker and what a goalkeeper – an absolute ‘keeper. But Jamie had to go and find him on a Saturday to get him to the game and then Jody would bring his big dog as well. It was a big Bordeaux. He used to tie it up behind his goal. So you’re playing a game and there’s a big terrifying Bordeaux looking ready to have you behind the net. Jody used to shout at forwards, things like ‘you’re not going to score past me’. He was brilliant to be fair. We got to the final of a cup and it was played at Stocksbridge. I looked around the dressing room and thought ‘Joker looks a bit worse for wear here’. I said to him ‘are you alright mate?’. He said ‘I’m just a bit nervous, I’ve never played in a game like this so I’ve had to have a couple of cans of Kestrel Super Strength and something else to calm me down’. He played and kept a clean sheet! We won 3-1 and Scott Alcock scored a hat-trick.

“We had lots of success in the County Senior, we won it a few times. The year before we went into the NCEL we should have gone in, but they knocked us back because of the ground. Pete was really upset. But we won the league the year after and we went into the NCEL.”

NCEL Football (2012 Onwards)

Athersley celebrating winning promotion out of the NCEL Division One in 2013

“We’ve spoken previously about our first season in the NCEL and how the supporters were received, but they were of massive benefit to us.

“The fans were going out on the p*** every Saturday and making as much noise as they could at matches. It was brilliant and it was a fantastic season.

“Ryan White came back to play for us on a Saturday. He’d always said that he would come back to us if we got into the NCEL. Gaz Hunter came, we had Kieran Scargill who fetched his mate Jack Briscoe who he is still there. That year, Lee Bennett, Steve Bennett, Joe Thornton came. The side was brilliant and we even paid £5 to play.

Dodsworth celebrating a late victory at Teversal

“We were always in and around the promotion places. A lot of games got called off that year because of the bad weather. But because our pitch was so good, it was holding up and we were getting our games on. It meant we got our points on the board which benefited us massively.

“I rank that promotion up there with the Senior Cup victory. At the time I was fairly unaware of what people got paid to play Non League football, but to get promoted in our first season in the NCEL with lads paying £5 a week subs, I’d be surprised if someone else has done that.”

Athersley’s 2014 Senior Cup Final

Athersley Rec’s shock Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup final win over Frickley Athletic in 2014

Read Dodsworth’s memories HERE.

The Barnsley Derby (September 2014)

“That Senior Cup game which is one of my greatest games. That Shaw Lane Senior Cup there was over 800 people down at Sheerian Park, it was a crowd that was unheard of. It was unbelievable and surreal. People were sat on roofs, top of the changing rooms. The Rec-in-Crew had a load of fake money made and they were setting it on fire. 

“People wanted Athersley to win because Shaw Lane didn’t have the best reputation. Being at Athersley, at the time, I couldn’t stand them. It is true, I have nothing to lie about. I thought it was bad how they started out and I think they went about it the wrong way. They were throwing money about at players when they didn’t have a ground and they had taken over another team to start with. Because of the way we had built our club to get into the NCEL and being knocked back and seeing how upset Pete was when that happened, for someone to come in and just throw money about and not work their way up, I didn’t agree with it. They went straight into the County Senior Premier because they took over another team. But fair play to Craig Wood and over time you get over it. He wanted to get up the pyramid and what he did was remarkable. For me it was never going to end well though because they didn’t have a ground.

“We had fire in our bellies that night. You didn’t need to do a team-talk. We drew 2-2 and beat them 6-2 after extra-time. We played Kieran Scargill upfront and he scored a hat-trick. Gary Stohrer was a great player, the right back for Shaw Lane, but Scags really gave him a game that night. We had Ryan White and Lee Bennett in the middle of the park and they ran the show.”

Disciplinary Record

Jason Dodsworth (right) in conversation with a referee

“I think it is average! My disciplinary record is Porkie’s fault. I learnt off him and he could get away with it back then. He’s drove this winning mentality in me. I get a bit heat up at times, but I’ve learned to calm it down. I think I only get sent off once…or twice, last season. 

“I know I’ve done wrong sometimes, but there’s been times when I have been sent off after hearing something ten times as bad from the other dugout. I think I have been victimised sometimes because of my reputation. I’m an easy target for referees. My record doesn’t help when you try and put an appeal in and you go the Sheffield FA and they pull out my previous record and it looks like they have just been to Asda shopping. Think of old fax machines and reams of paper coming out.

“A lot got let go in the early days by referees, especially on a Sunday as they had a hard job as some teams had lads who were still hungover from a Saturday night. I started getting into trouble more when we came into the NCEL because referees were more strict. 

“I think the worst ban I’ve had is a four or six game ban. I think it was from the Lee Bennett incident with Runcorn in one of the FA competitions. I think it was the first tackle of the game. It was one-footed, but he went straight through the kid and he was a bit high on top of the ball. There was a massive melee and their management team has run on charging at Lee. We run on to split it up. I don’t think it was a red card, but the referee sent him straight off. I said a few choice words and got my marching orders as well. I thought it was harsh and we both appealed. 

“We had to go to the Sheffield FA headquarters and they brought up my previous record. I think they were still printing it off the day after. I said my piece and then Lee went in. I don’t know what he said, but he came back out before we went back in. The verdicts: Lee Bennett – not guilty. Jason Dodsworth – guilty. I couldn’t believe it. My ban even got extended and he got off. 

Jason Dodsworth watches Athersley through a gate at Nostell after a red card

“I once got sent off at Nostell when I was joint manager of Athersley (in 2015). We kicked off and after five minutes, the referee had booked four players and he’d let play go on after Danny Joynes got a head injury and Nostell scored. We got a free kick and next thing we know he’d sent Ryan White off for our free kick. This was all in eight minutes. I went up to him at half-time on the way off and to be fair I was quite calm. I said ‘what are you doing’? He claimed that Ryan had said he would see him afterwards in the car park. I didn’t believe it because Ryan wouldn’t say that and plus it was our free kick. He was our captain and he was questioning the yellow cards. I just said ‘look, you’re meant to speak to players and man-manage them, you’re throwing yellow cards around after eight minutes so you can’t obviously manage players’. He looked at me and said ‘neither can you now, you’re off now’ and sent me off. I ended up at the top of the steps looking through the gates watching the second half.

“Two years ago at Nostell, me and Simon (Houghton) got a two-game stadium ban from the Rossington game when Lee Holmes punched the winner into the net in the last minute. It was scandalous and our heads went and we both got sent off. We didn’t go to the first game of our stadium ban, but we did go to the second one at home to Hallam. We thought we’d let the game kick off and then sneak down and watch. Bamf (fellow Maltby management team member Dean Bamforth) was obviously at Hallam and we were winning 1-0 at half-time and Bamf saw us so he grassed on us. He seemed more bothered about me and Simon than his own team. He was constantly shouting at the officials ‘they’re up there, they’re up there at the top of the steps’. You’d have thought he had seen a fugitive mass murderer with the way he was going on. Maybe he’s watched Harrison Ford in The Fugitive film too often. So me and Simon had to run off and we ended up out of the ground in the woods and trees. Nobody knew we were there then. I did try and be quiet and bite my tongue, but you know what’s I’m like so I did shout the odd thing. Simon kept saying ‘here, be quiet’. When we won 1-0 we got in the trees and we were shaking them to celebrate to wind Bamf up because we weren’t actually in the ground!”

Joint manager with Sean Margison for One Season (2015/16)

Jason Dodsworth and Sean Margison with the Senior Cup trophy in 2014

“Sean Margison has been down there 25 years and I actually played under him for the reserves. He was once dropped me for a final at Stocksbridge. I think I had scored two in the quarters as well, but I liked to watch my mates in the first team so I didn’t take playing as seriously as maybe I should have done. I may have missed a game before the final so Sean dropped me out of the squad.

“Myself and Sean worked really well together. He’s easy going and he knows his stuff. We had a tough season together, but as a club we’d have some good seasons and that’s when big clubs with money come calling for your best players. We just managed to stay up. 

“I technically resigned four games into that season. Our lass had been at College and then gone onto University and she was in her second year. Obviously we have two kids and football management takes a lot of time up. I always promised that I would have a year out during her last year to make sure she passed. I was always out Saturdays and Sundays and she had exams so it wouldn’t have been fair. So I told the club after four games, but stayed in charge with Sean for the rest of the season.”

Sabbatical and Return (Early 2017)

“So I had nearly a season out before I went to Handsworth as assistant manager for a short period. I get on with a lot of people in the Non League scene and they’re not many I don’t have respect for. Handsworth, I have always got on with them and Steve Holmes. I got a call one day asking if I would be interested in going there to work with Mick Godber. It was late in the season and it was more about getting ready for the following season. It obviously didn’t work out and Mick left. I was asked to stay, but I didn’t think it was right as I went to work with Mick. I had only been there eight weeks and if I had stayed after the manager got sacked, it wouldn’t have looked well on me. It is easy for people to think you have stabbed someone in the back so I walked away with Mick.”

Nostell with Simon Houghton (Late 2017 to April 2020)

Former Nostell Miners Welfare joint managers Jason Dodsworth and Simon Houghton

“Simon was actually with the Rec during our promotion season in the NCEL so that’s when I got to know him. He then took the Shaw Lane job where in my view he was wrongly sacked as he was doing a good job. We became good friends and when the Nostell job call came, we went and took that.

“When we went in the words were ‘if we go down, there might not be a club so can you keep us up’? Me and Simon are not the type of people who want to peter around at the bottom of the league and in the second season we finished fifth and eight points off second place. It was a good first year.

“A few changes were implemented in the summer and I think we put a great side together and we flying. Once as we picked up a few injuries and the lost the lads we did to work commitments, we didn’t have the tools to replace them. That’s no dig at anyone. But we left with our heads held high as we did a very good job.”

New Beginnings with Maltby 

“I know Wilf (Race) says we will cost the club a fortune with these ear defenders, but I think I’ve quietened down a bit! I can’t comment on Bamf! 

“When we left Nostell, I had a few texts and calls, but I knew Louis from his Handsworth days. When he asked me, I thought why not? I spoke to Simon because the idea was I was going to work with Simon, but you can’t work somewhere together if nothing comes up. I just said to him ‘I’m going to take it, it is a good opportunity at a decent NCEL club looking to push forward and it keeps me involved’.

“Maltby reminds me of Athersley. Wilf, the committee, it is well-run and I agreed to Louis’ offer.”

If you have enjoyed this interview and the Non League Journey interview series, please watch the video at the bottom of the page and consider making a donation to the not-for-profit organisation NLY Community Sport which provides sport for children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. CLICK HERE to visit the JustGiving page.

NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams so when the green light to return is given, our work will play an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.

We have six teams, a mixture of Junior and Adult teams – Nostell MW DFC, Pontefract Pirates, Selby Disability Football Club and the South Yorkshire Superheroes (Barnsley) – across Yorkshire.

Like most organisations, we have been affected financially by the Coronavirus and we have incurred losses which we cannot recover. We have not been hit as badly as other organisations, but we do need raise £2000 to put us back at the level we were at in mid-March and enable us to make a difference once again to our players’ lives in the future, without having financial worries. As each day goes on, a substantial number of our players become further isolated so we need to be ‘ready for action’ when restrictions are lifted.

Any amount raised above £2000 will be put towards new projects (when the world returns to normal) designed to further benefit people with disabilities and learning difficulties. You can learn more about the organisation HERE and on our Facebook page.

Watch the video below to see highlights from our three years as an organisation. The video was produced for our players at the end of March to remind them of good memories from the last three years.

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