Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
Knaresborough Town manager Rob Hunter looks back at his reign at Garforth Town with lots of pride ahead of a big reunion with old friends at Manse Lane tomorrow.
The Knaresborough boss is still held regard in East Leeds because of his fine stint in the Garforth dugout.
He joined the Miners as assistant to Adrian Costello in November 2015 and the pair guided Garforth to safety despite the desperate situation they were in.
Hunter became the manager six months later, a role he held until October 2019 when he passed the baton to Paul Marshall.
Although no silverware was won, Hunter views his reign as a positive period.
“It was a big success,” Hunter told Non League Yorkshire.
“If you remember when I came into the club to assist Adie (Costello) we were struggling and it looked like we were going to get relegated.
“There was no money and we beat Pontefract 6-1 (towards the end of the season) and that kept us up.
“Adie resigned (in May 2016) and Brian (Close) and Craig (Bannister) offered me the job and I didn’t have a minute to sort myself out.
“There was effectively no budget and it was about calling in favours and bringing in young lads.
“The first two seasons I was in charge were really tough.
“We finished 13th (out of 22) in the season season with effectively no budget and it was an excellent season.
“People had written Garforth off and at the beginning of the season we were everyone’s favourites to get relegated and we were nowhere near relegation.
“There wasn’t any success in terms of winning things but in terms of taking the club to a solid foundation it was a very successful time.”
Hunter will constantly bump into friends tomorrow, including his successor Marshall who he has known since the 1980s.
“I was at Garforth for four years and it was a great time for me,” he said.
“I enjoyed my time at Garforth.
“They have a good set of supporters and Brian (Close) and Craig (Bannister) who run the club are two of the nicest people in Non League Football.
“So coming up against Garforth is a game to look forward to.
“If I wasn’t involved in football I’d still be getting across to watch some of their matches because I have a good affinity with them.
“In terms of (Garforth assistant manager) Smudge (Mark Smitheringale), he’s one of my best mates in football and we had a good night out recently when I obviously drunk under the table as usual!
“Me and Marshy go back 30+ years.
“I actually played for Marshy on a Sunday morning when he was manager of Claro Catholics in the Claro League and we played in the same team at Harrogate Railway under Graham Shepherd.
“We played together at Harrogate Veterans and worked together at Tadcaster.
“Don’t forget I brought (coach) Mike (Reynolds) in and some of the players.
“I gave Joe Colley his chance when he was 16.
“Dan Coupland, Sam Leach, Toby Wells, I brought those players in.
“I absolutely love Garforth Town and I wish them all the best, except on Saturday.”
Knaresborough do need a win tomorrow as a season of extreme ups and downs has continued since the 4-0 battering of Hemsworth Miners Welfare in mid-December.
Although he is slightly concerned, Hunter sees positives.
“It has been a really tough period,” he said.
“Yeah it has been hard work and in truth we haven’t played very well (in some of the games).
“We have struggled with getting the same team out and we have a lot of work to do if we want to stay in this league.
“We’re gradually getting dragged into a situation we don’t want to be in.
“Our last two performances have been decent.
“We played really well at Winterton but we had absolutely no luck.
“We were 2-0 down at half-time but in truth we should have been winning the game.
“The signing of Jake Rose is a real positive; he’s come into the team and in the last two games he has been really good.
“We also have Sam Cook back, he’s been out for over four months.
“He’s a big player for us and it is good to have him back.
“We’re not a place where we think we’re not going to get out of this, we’re in a relatively good place in terms of players coming back.
“Although we lose Dom Creamer after Saturday for the season due to his work with the Army.
“This week I’ve had conversations with Mark Simpson who has been a huge loss to the club and it sounds unlikely that he’ll play again this season.
“So it is not ideal but we’re not in a desperate situation, yet, but we do need to start picking up some points.”