Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
Club stalwart Steve Lenthall felt duty-bound to provide stability to Penistone Church by stepping in as their third manager of the season.
Lenthall is initially in charge for the rest of the campaign after Brett Lovell had to turn down the chance to be legendary manager Ian Richards’ successor due to family commitments after managing the FA Vase defeat at Bacup.
Lenthall – who had meant to be Lovell’s assistant – has been a player and manager at Penistone for over 30 years.
He started as an 11-year-old before graduating to the first team until retirement at 27 after snapping both achilles tendons.
He managed the reserves for many years in the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League to great success until June this year when he stepped down due to rising work commitments.
That’s one of the reasons why he is not looking beyond the end of this season.
“The work commitments haven’t changed at all,” Lenthall told Non League Yorkshire.
“I’m still busy as ever but its transferred to Sundays as I’m working all day Sunday to make up for the Saturday.
“But it was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss out on.
“As a player you always want to play at the highest level and when you’re managing you want to manage as high as you can.
“I’ve always said I wanted to do it if Ian ever left.
“I’ve taken it because I wanted to, I wasn’t forced to.
“I’ve said I’ll do it for this season for definite but I don’t know what the future holds.
“I can’t really say I’m going to do it for the next ten or 12 years and commit my time totally to it.
“It happened all so quickly and I wanted to help the club this season and steady the ship and make sure everything was alright with the club.
“Who knows, if I get the buzz back for it which on Saturday I did and all the players are on side you never know what might happen in the future.”
One of the reasons Lenthall felt obligated to take the job was because a fourth manager of the season would have created more turmoil.
“When Ian left and Brett made his decision (not to take the job) I said my personal point of view was that it didn’t need another whirlwind of two weeks asking for manager applications,” he said.
“It could take months for the club to get the right person after interviews.
“The club and the chairman were on side with me taking and they said that the lads would respect me doing it.
“To advertise for a new manager it can upset the applecart with players, i.e them bringing players in and players leaving.
“I said I’d do it and do it with Ryan Johnson to start with and then look to get another assistant in in the near future.
“We’re going to take things as they come.
“I don’t know how results are going to go?
“In two months’ time we may have only had one win and the club may be looking to replace me anyway.
“That’s what happens at this standard of football.
“It is not like doing the reserves where I could have had a job for life, whether we finish top half or bottom half.
“It is a bit different at semi-professional level.”
The first step in the right direction came on Saturday when Church put Thackley to the sword in a 4-0 victory at home.
The resounding win lifted the gloom and Lenthall hailed his players.
“There was quite a bit of press about the fact Thackley hadn’t beaten us in the North East Counties and because of how results had gone recently the pressure was on,” he said.
“I explained that to the players and that it was all about being relaxed and going out and enjoying it and getting a buzz about the place again.
“I thought the lads were superb.
“They reacted to me and reacted what I said and they got the result the club needed.
“For the 200+ people there, it was nice to see the relief on a lot of the faces.
“It was a good day.
“With the reserves, managing at Hillsborough is probably the highlight so far but Saturday is definitely up there with it because we were in front of a decent crowd and the club was a little downbeat and the players turned it around.”
Under Richards, promotion had been the aim for Penistone at the beginning of the Premier Division.
But just two wins in eight matches make the chances of that aspiration coming true a fading dream.
Lenthall agrees but he hopes Church can quickly fly up the table in the next few weeks.
“I think you have to be honest and teams like Grimsby, Sherwood Colliery and Handsworth have set off on fire,” he said.
“Grimsby have a gap of 14 points on us.
“The club want us in the top ten which I think is very achievable.
“It is not as though promotion was my main priority because of where we were when Ian stepped down.
“I think it is a case of steadying the ship and making sure players were on board.
“When I spoke to the club last Monday they said they’d be more than happy with a top ten finish because of what has happened in the last two weeks.
“I think the next three games for us are crucial – Bottesford, Barton and Knaresborough.
“If we get nine points then three wins on the bounce turn the corner and people look at it in a different light as we will have climbed the league.”
Even though Kurtis Turner (Stocksbridge Park Steels), Jack Shepherd (Pontefract Collieries) and Nick Guest have left inside the last two weeks, Lenthall does not plan an overhaul of the Church squad.
“We have signed Reece High,” he said.
“He played under me in the reserves and I think he has got the qualities to definitely do something for us.
“We have a squad of about 20 or 21.
“The three players who have left are good players but I think there is quality within the squad to rectify that.
“I also want to bring the club players through – the under 21s, the reserves.
“I think there is a lot of players in those teams who are good enough to step-up.
“We had two on Saturday from the under 21s involved.”
Penistone visit Bottesford Town tomorrow.
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