Byron Littlefair says surprise West Yorkshire League Premier Division leaders Knaresborough Town Reserves are exceeding all expectations.
Knaresborough lead the way ahead of the fancied sides while a number of Littlefair’s young guns have broken into Rob Hunter’s first team in the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division.
The worst injury crisis in Knaresborough’s 119-year history has meant Hunter has utilised the youngsters throughout the campaign and Lewis Dobson, Alex Hields, Harry Rayner, Cameron Bedford and Lewis Pye are among those who have stepped up.
Littlefair says his men have done themselves justice and he’s pleased on all fronts.
“It is a success so far on both parts because lads are getting first team opportunities and we’re doing so well (in the league) so far,” Littlefair told Non League Yorkshire.
“Bob’s hand has been forced because of injuries but the lads who have stepped up to the first team have done well.
“Bob will take the opportunity to use these players when he can and I know two are being used this weekend.
“Alex Hields played for him the other night and he had a good game so I think he’s keeping his place this weekend.
“Rob won’t be afraid to use them and if they play well they’ll keep their place.
“(In the West Yorkshire League) we’ve probably overachieved so far.
“We set ourselves a target of top half and to make sure we are competitive in every game.
“I think because of the way we started our target will change to finishing in the top four to six.
“We’re competing against some big teams.
“There’s Beeston who have been successful over the years and have won it many times.
“We haven’t played them yet but they’ll be there or there abouts.
“We have played both Horbury and Horsforth who on the day were far better than us.
“My players know if we want to achieve anything at this level then we have to get to the heights those teams set when they played against us.”
Littlefair also agrees Hunter’s use of his players proves Knaresborough is an attractive destination for young players.
“I think it is the place to be because Bob has already used players from my squad already this season,” he said.
“We have some of the best young players in the area.
“Obviously there is a decent players elsewhere like Railway but it is the place to be because if you are good enough you’ll get the opportunity.
“(The West Yorkshire League is also) a good learning ground and stepping stone for young lads who want to leave the amateur game and go into Non League.
“It is a tough league but there’s some good footballing sides in it.”
The success so far is not bad for a man in his first season in management.
Littlefair, who played for Harrogate Railway in the 2007 FA Cup adventure to the second round, is best known for his playing days at Knaresborough under Brian Davey and later Paul Stansfield.
But until the summer he had been in the Non League wilderness for a few years.
Then two worlds collided when both himself and Hunter were enjoying a rare night out on the town and it led to his appointment.
“I’d been out of the game for about four years,” he said.
“I’ve been watching Leeds home and away along with England.
“I had a conversation with Bob one night in Harrogate Town Centre and I said if I ever got the opportunity to manage I would give up (watching Leeds).
“Off the back of a conversation over a few beers, Rob rung me up when he got the first team job to see if I fancied doing it which I certainly did.”