Steve Lenthall plans to blood some of the next generation of Penistone Church youngsters during the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League Cup campaign.
The Church reserves chief will watch his side return to action in the behind closed doors Group D clash with South Kirkby Colliery at the Memorial Ground.
Battles with Terry Simon’s Wombwell Main and Division One’s Kiveton Park are also to come over the next six weeks, but for Lenthall, the priority of the League Cup is youth development.
“We’ve got a lot of under 18s signed on so I’m thinking this is the perfect time to bring some of them through into men’s football,” Lenthall told Non League Yorkshire.
“I’m hoping it is not too competitive where we’re going around kicking lumps out of each other. I don’t want to see that.
“I want to see under 18s coming through and hopefully we can progress into next season with them and compete like we have been doing in the last few years in the Premier Division.
“We have got a strong squad and I always try to bring the younger ones through, that’s always been the aim.
“I run the under 18s so I’m coaching these lads on a Sunday as well, but I’d like to think we can get four or five of them playing in the League Cup.
“If they get 15 or 20 minutes on a weekly basis, I’d be happy with that.
“We are bothered about the results, but it is not the be-all and end-all as it is about making sure the club is progressing and the lads are playing with a smile on the face and are enjoying it.”
The 29th March marked the lifting of restrictions on outdoor sport so players have been able to meet up again to train.
Lenthall admits his players could not wait to get back on-the-field and he agrees that it is important to get back some form of normality.
He also supports the view for some players who perhaps live on their own and have to work from home that the past few months will have been extremely tough.
“I’ve messaged a couple of lads (in the past few months) to see how they were, more to ask about their wellbeing,” he said.
“We have a young squad this season so there’s a lot of 18 or 19-year-olds so they are still at home and have family to talk to.
“I know where you’re coming from with that (about players who live on their own and work from home) because it has got to be hard for a lot of players who have been isolated on their own.
“When we sent out the messages to say when we’d training, everyone was saying back messages saying ‘can’t wait’.
“They’re all buzzing. I know the majority of our lads have kept themselves fit as they have been doing a lot of running.
“We are just looking forward to starting the League Cup.
“It is about getting the lads back together and playing.
“Yeah, you go into and everyone wants to get to the semi-finals and final, but if you don’t it is not a big issue because it is about getting the lads playing.
“I think what the County Senior have done with the League Cup is a great idea.
“They could have quite easily chalked it off and said ‘that’s it’.
“They have struck their neck on the line and people like (league secretary) Paul Kay have done brilliantly to organise it.
“The lads are thankful we can play football again.
“From a club point of view it is a disappointment we can’t have spectators there and that the club can’t open, but we’re playing football and that’s main thing as long as people are safe and enjoying it.”
Wombwell and Penistone are the clear favourites for the top two positions which enable progress into the quarter-finals.
However, Lenthall, speaking before the lifting of restrictions, admits the visit of Division One outfit South Kirkby is a potential banana-skin waiting to happen for Penistone because of the lack of regular training.
“It definitely could be (a banana-skin waiting to happen),” he said.
“I originally set out my stall with the lads to say we’d probably train on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“But I’ve since arranged a friendly for Tuesday to see what the legs are like and to give 16 or 17 lads an hour.
“South Kirkby could be doing the same.
“But it is definitely going to be a level playing field, there’s no two ways about it.
“I think the first few games will be like that.
“You look at Kiverton and South Kirkby and they were doing alright in their Division.
“These games are going to be like cup finals and we play South Kirkby first and if they have kept themselves fit it is going to be a competitive game.
“I don’t know think there is any favourites (to go through in the group).
“People probably put us (and Wombwell as) favourites (to go through) because we’re in the Premier.
“I think it will be a strong group. We want to get out of it and hopefully after six games we will do.”
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.
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.