Pitts wants to create family atmosphere at Goole

Goole AFC joint managers Simon Portrey and Mark Pitts (right)

Creating a “family atmosphere” is a priority for Goole AFC joint managers Mark Pitts and Simon Portrey. 

The pair are three weeks into their reign after succeeding Lutel James in dugout and have managed Goole four times in the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division. 

A thriving social environment was one of the keys to success during Pitts’ reign as the Carlton Athletic manager which saw them dominate the West Yorkshire League for three successive seasons and the Goole joint boss would like to recreate it at the Victoria Pleasure Grounds.

“I’ve always had a family atmosphere at my clubs and I think it is important,” Pitts told Non League Yorkshire.

“Alongside the football, the training and playing side, it is important to have the social aspect. Not everyone likes each other in a dressing room, that’s life. It is like work. It is about getting a stable squad, a good environment.

“The bar is not open at Goole at the moment, but it is always nice to go in and have a few beers at the end and have a good team bonding. All good teams have it. You look at Liversedge, after our game they all went into Goole and went to a couple of pubs. It is little things like that. 

“When you get a good bond and you stick together, you fight for each other more on the pitch. The family atmosphere and team bond was one of the reasons we were successful with Carlton. We had a talented group, but one that really got on well together.

“(New signing) Scott (Burns) probably won’t thank me for saying it, but when we brought him in he really brought the group together. That’s why I’ve been trying to get him to Goole because when he walks into a changing room he gives a team a lift.

“You get players like that and they are rare to come by. When you have players like that you know you have a chance. He’s got good banter and he’s a good lad.”

New Goole AFC right winger Scott Burns is the life and soul of the party according to Mark Pitts

Burns is one of several Carlton ‘legends’ who have signed for Goole. Anees Younis arrived in the summer when Pitts and Portrey were coaches under then-joint managers James and Les Nelson ruled the roost. 

Since taking the top post, the pair have drafted in Burns, Scott Hargreaves, Andy Payne – along with Nathan Kemp who was playing with Nostell Miners Welfare.

But that will be probably it from the Carlton glory days squad.

“I’ve been chasing Nathan Kemp since we got the job and I’m always pestering Scott Hargreaves because he’s a really good centre-forward,” he said.

“I think he’s what you need in this league as he’s a big unit. He’s an awkward player and I wouldn’t like to mark him. In terms of a Carlton reunion, no. We’ve just tried to get a few in that I think are good enough.

“I always thought if I had been able to get promoted with Carlton we could have competed and held our own in (NCEL) Division One. We used to get plenty of managers trying to sign the lads so they must have been far decent.

“We’ve ended up here at Goole and it is a big step and there’s some adjusting to do. Myself and Simon have full belief in the ones we have brought – Anees, Burnsy, Scott, Nathan, Reece Fennell, Joe O’Neill, Andy Payne – that they are more than capable of stepping up.

“I’m not going to lie I think it will take time for them to adjust. I think a few of them have had a culture shock as it is fast-paced league and there’s quality. But if you want to play football and test yourself, it is a good league to do it in.”

Pitts and Portrey endured quite a baptism of fire in the job as their first game saw them get hammered 6-0 by Liversedge at home. 

The following match saw Yorkshire Amateur visit and many will have feared the worst. Heroic Goole held onto a 0-0 draw before a 1-1 draw with Knaresborough Town.

Goole lost 4-0 at Grimsby Borough on the night before the new lockdown measures, but performed well. Analying their first four fixtures in charge, Pitts admits there is plenty to be positive about.

“In the first game against Liversedge we were really proud of them in the first half,” he said.

“We were 1-0 down and then like in previous week we conceded early in the second half and fell apart. But I don’t think you’ll play many better sides than Liversedge this season.

“After that we thought ‘Yorkshire Amateur, that’s going to be equally as tough’. We managed to get a little training session in between the games and we set up a bit better and made a couple of changes that we thought were needed. 

“We brought Andy Payne in from Carlton and played with two holding midfielders. It was a really good performance and at times it was backs to the wall. But we missed a penalty and in my opinion their ‘keeper should have been sent off. A point was probably fair, but we could have won it. I don’t think they will be many who will hold them to a goal-less draw this season.

“Knaresborough was a battle and totally contrasting to the previous two games. It was two sides in similar positions slugging it out. We went 1-0 up and conceded a penalty late-on. We were gutted because I really did think we deserved to win that game on the chances created, although they did miss a penalty as well.

“In the final game against Grimsby I think we played the best footballing side in the league. They are a really good team. But then again young Ben Henderson at left-back who is only 18 and in Farsley’s under 21s, he got two yellow cards in the first half-an-hour. That made it really tough and we also had a sin bin (Andy Payne). I don’t see many sides going there and getting a result with the way they move the ball. You put your hands up and say we got beat by a quality team.

“You know what though, the positive at Grimsby was we didn’t stop all night. Whereas three or four weeks ago we would have folded and heads would have gone down. We pressed right to the end at Grimsby, even with ten men.

“The biggest problem has been and most managers will say this, we have been on our backside for bodies.

“We made four changes at Grimsby through people not being available. You need a big squad. We had injuries, no Anees (Younis) and we had another lad who had played snooker and got a message on his track and record to say he had to go into isolation because he had come into contact with someone who had tested positive.

“When you look at Liversedge, the Ammers and Grimsby, they have a settled side all the time and it makes the difference. I’m a big believer in that if you’re swapping and changing all the time it makes it difficult.”

If you have enjoyed reading Non League Yorkshire over the past few months, 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. When we properly return to ‘action’, 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.

We have enjoyed great success over the past three years. Several of our players have represented Mencap GB in Geneva, including Billy Hobson from Selby and Greg Smith, whose story is quite inspiring.

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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