Wombwell Main manager Terry Simon reckons the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League Premier Division is most competitive he has ever seen it.
As one of the league’s longest serving managers, Simon is well-qualified to make that comment and he cites the influx of a significant number of players who have dropped down from the NCEL as the reason why.
“This is certainly my 14th season in the County Senior and I think it is the strongest it has been,” Simon told Non League Yorkshire.
“The last time I won it during my first time out with Wombwell was 2008 and around then Athersley Rec had a spell of domination before they went up (into the NCEL).
“You look two years ago and North Gawber won it and lost two games when they did the quadruple. Swinton hadn’t lost a game before the season was stopped last season.
“I can’t see that happening this year. Your Dodworth’s, your Swinton’s will be strong. Penistone are always strong. Gawber are a tough side. Wakefield are pushing. There is ourselves and there’s Stocksbridge. There’s five or six teams who will fancy their chances.
“A lot of that is down to what you have written about in articles about the number of players who have dropped down from the Northern Counties East League (this year). I’ve never seen so many players drop down at one go.
“Every team has strengthened. We go to Jubilee on Saturday and Jordan Turner is playing for them and he’s scored wherever he has been. Whether that’s Handsworth as a young-un, Hallam, Pontefract and he’s very similar to Frosty in that he has scored goals at whatever level.
“You look at every team we have played, they all have one, two, three players who have come down and strengthened each individual side and also the league. It has made it a good league.”
Dodworth Miners Welfare and Wombwell are the most notable beneficiaries of the exodus from the NCEL.
Dodworth have signed five players from the NCEL while Main have recruited Danny Frost and Worsbrough Bridge deadly duo Ash Emmett and Kieran Hirst.
Their decisions to play Senior League football this season are largely down to concerns over travelling and potential midweek fixture chaos. Those fears are beginning to be realised as postponements are starting to rise because of bad weather and Covid related reasons.
Simon agrees with the view that more players could drop down from the NCEL.
“I try and follow all the leagues, not just County Senior and I take a lot of interest in the Northern Counties,” he said.
“You look this week and I think there were three games called off in the Northern Counties last night (Tuesday) for Covid. There were some today and there were some on Saturday.
“The backlog of fixtures is just going to get more and more intense and I think you’re right that as the season progresses you may see more players stepping down, especially because of the travelling.
“In our league we are fortunate that there is only Hepworth and Wakefield that are out of South Yorkshire so we can travel between Rotherham, Barnsley, Sheffield and Donny.
“When you’ve had a tough week or day and you’ve got a Tuesday night at Skegness or Brid, it is a long day. You look at the time they are out of the house, especially if they have to be at work for 8am and they have to go to Skeggy.
“When you’ve got families you can’t always say to the good lady in the house ‘look I’m going out at 8am and I’ll see you tomorrow morning when I get up for work’.
“If you look at facilities in the County Senior League, they have all improved massively. I personally don’t think the gap between the top dozen in the County Senior and the bottom half of the Northern Counties is that big.
“So I think if you put your top six up they’d all compete and hold their own. Lads are thinking ‘they’ve got good changing facilities, travelling is less and I’m out of the house three hours, not six hours and the standard of football is decent’.”
Simon is arguably Mr Wombwell Main having being with the club as a toddler, boy and man. Now in his fifties, he was a junior player at the age of five and he went onto play for the first team and started coaching the club’s junior sides back then.
He won the treble as first team manager in 2008. Simon then had a hiatus as Wombwell boss for a few years and he went off and managed Houghton Main.
He came back several seasons ago and whilst outlining how he hopes Wombwell will develop, he says the club has gone from strength to strength.
“I’ve lived in Wombwell all my life and I would class Wombwell Main as my club,” he said.
“Even when I was at Houghton people used to say that I was a Wombweller and I probably was.
“Coming back it was nice to see the difference (from what it was like when I left) and a lot of things had changed with the junior section. It had gone from one or two sides to five or six. Now we have nine junior sides plus girls sides and walking football.
“It has always been a community football club, but you look now and there’s a focus. Young age groups will come and watch football team matches and you’ll hear them saying ‘if I don’t play for Barnsley, Man U or Leeds, I want to play for Wombwell Main’.
“That’s never been the case before. I think the perfect model for local football is Handsworth. When I first went to Handsworth (with Wombwell), they only had a junior section. Then a lot of good people like Dave Wragg and Nige Goodison who are no longer with us, they had a plan where they wanted to push players through and if you look at their under 17s, 18s a few years ago, they won every competition. These players were then pushed to the first team.
“Penistone are doing a similar model now and it is the model I’d like to follow. Whether they are in the under fives or under 16s, if they want to play for Wombwell Main, I want a progression route to be there.
“It would be ideal if we could get floodlights, but that’s a pipe dream and it is something we’re looking at and not dismissed out of hand. We’re making progress all the time.
“In the last three or four years we’ve had new changing rooms, new dugouts, perimeter barriers, hard standing on two sides. We’re making inroads into what we would need to move up to the next level.”
That’s for the future and for the short-term priority is Jubilee Sports – Saturday’s opponents. Simon will be hoping for a less epic clash.
With bolted up Iceman Frost cheering ‘the entertainers’ on from his luxurious penthouse bedroom across the road, Simon’s men beat Stocksbridge Park Steels reserves 5-4 thanks to Kieran Hirst’s last minute penalty.
It was like watching Newcastle United under Kevin Keegan in the 1990s and Simon admits that it was some game.
“It was interesting,” he said.
“We started off by scoring straight away and we played the best football I’ve seen us play since I’ve came back three years ago. It was great to watch and if we had gone in ten up at half-time, it wouldn’t have been undeserved as we missed half-a-dozen chances.
“Then five minutes before half-time they equalised from a corner – a nice goal to be fair. There was six or seven minutes of injury-time because of an injury and during it they went 2-1 up. I couldn’t believe it.
“I said at half-time ‘let’s not change anything as we’ll create chance, just tighten up at the back’. First minute of the half, we score, great goal, two-a-piece.
“Then ten minutes of madness and we’re 4-2 down. We started to get play some good football and we got it back to 4-3 from a penalty. Then we got it to 4-4 with a couple of minutes to play. I was happy to take a draw.
“But then into injury-time, a shot deflected off a kid’s arm and penalty. Young Kieran Hirst picked it up and bagged his hat-trick – all witnessed by Frosty in his bedroom which funnily enough overlooks that goal-mouth.
“We knew he was there because he sent us a picture and he had four bottles of beer lined up. He said he was going to drink a bottle for every goal because he thought we’d get four. To be fair to him he wasn’t far off.
“In the heat of the moment we probably he forgot he was there as otherwise one or two might have run over and celebrated in front of his window. I’m pleased they did forget because Frosty probably would have been hanging out of the window!”
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