Athersley Rec chief Shane Kelsey has managed to retain all but three of last season’s squad and has gained two brand new committals.
Although Athersley were bottom of the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division table when the season was abruptly stopped, Kelsey has previously said that his young squad will be much stronger because of a year’s experience.
The two new players fit that bill and Kelsey is hopeful of adding further fresh blood to his Rec squad ahead of his first campaign in charge.
“Chris (Snaith) has gone back to Penistone because Max Dearnley has gone to Ossett United,” Kelsey told Non League Yorkshire.
“Young Jack Shepherd has also gone back to Penistone which was always part of the deal. He came to us to get game-time because Brett (Lovell) and the other centre-half there were ahead of him. He’s 18 and Ian (Richards) wants to have a look at him during pre-season.
“Ben Walker has decided not to come back. He informed me on Saturday that he’ll be looking to go elsewhere.
“We’re three down, but I have good numbers wanting to come in and all bar from last season have committed.
“He had some offers at the end of last season to go to Barton for decent money, but Josh Bucknall has re-signed back on for us. That’s an absolutely massive re-signing for us.
“I thought Lee Garside was done as he had an injury last season, but it has been a blessing in disguise as he’s come back fit and his knee feels good.
“There’s life in the old dog, but even if you can’t get him on the field, you need experience like his around a young squad.
“Two new lads have committed. Ash Mills, a lad from Darton who was playing for Grimethorpe last season, has committed. He’s a forward who is speedy and only 18 or 19. He’s hungry and he’s got potential. It will be a step-up for him, but he’s the right kind of age.
“A lot of players are scared to step-up because they want to stay in their comfort zones with their mates, but credit to him as he’s having a go.
“I have another young goalkeeper called Ben Woodcock signed. He’s come from Handsworth reserves. He came last season, but I had Chris at the time so he was just training with us.
“I have a few names that we can’t put out at the minute, but I’m hoping to get them tied up this weekend. If we get those in we’ll be looking a lot stronger than we were this time last season, put it that way.
“They’ve played at this level and the level below and they fit into what I want to do. They’re local to us as they’re from Barnsley and the surrounding areas and they are good ages as well.
“I’ve had some really youngsters come down too and I think the reason they’ve come down is because they know they will get a chance with me.”
Athersley are one of several clubs who have started ‘pre-season’ training. Kelsey admits it has been difficult to arrange because of the FA guidelines for social-distancing training, but he believes there has been benefits for everyone.
“Not everyone has been doing fitness work so you do have to be prepared because if it does start quicker than anticipated, there’ll be people playing catch-up,” he said.
“It doesn’t hurt going in once or twice a week just to blow some cobwebs off.
“A lot of it is about getting people out of the house. Pubs, cinemas aren’t open so there is nothing to do. I was amazed about the numbers wanting to come down and train for the first session.
“But I was think a lot of people are wanting to come purely for the social aspect. For those who are at home on their own I can imagine it is quite depressing. If you’re not working it can’t be easy either so I think training has been good enough for mental health reasons.
“We have done three sessions so far. We have been doing it with five at five or six different stations and then rotating groups round every 15 minutes.
“We’re quite lucky at Rec as it is a big area and there are plenty of places to go. It is mainly fitness work because you can’t really use the ball. They’d be wanting to tackle each other if we used the ball!
“We’ve had to be really careful with numbers. I’m not messing about, people have to let me know they’re coming.
“I don’t let anyone just turn up. If they just turn up unannounced, they’ll be sent away. We haven’t had to do that yet, but I’ve had to tell a few by text that they can’t train because there is a limit on numbers. It is basically first come first served.”
In his April interview with Non League Yorkshire, Kelsey spoke about hoping the ‘reset button’ would be pressed on Non League Football with club choosing to play youngsters and pay less in wages.
With the FA hoping for a September start date, clubs are announcing signings so whether Kelsey’s dream will come true or not is starting to play out.
“For some (clubs) of them it is business as usual, let’s be right,” he said.
“You see some clubs in the leagues above going barmy with JustGiving pages two months ago and then you see them signing players for undisclosed fees. You can’t make it up.
“With a few teams I don’t think it will go the way I hope it will, but I think the majority will tighten up and I think you’ll find the bottom ten teams will be more on par.
“Then you’ll have the top four or five who will be able to pull away.”
Kelsey also sent a message of best wishes to local compatriot and well known Non League player Showman Ryan Poskitt who has been involved in a freak scaffolding accident.
Fortunately The Showman escaped unscathed from the fall and he remains free to terrorise defenders next season.
“It could have been nasty, but its a 9.6 from me and I was impressed with his landing,” he said.
“Because of his height, to him it must have been like falling off a four storey building or Big Ben.”
If you have enjoyed this interview, please 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.
There is a video at the bottom of the page showing our work.
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.