Move back to NCEL has given Campion pair new lease of life

Toolstation NCEL Division One 

Campion joint manager Lee Ashforth

The move back to the Northern Counties East League has given Campion joint managers Lee Ashforth and James Bicknell a new lease of life.

The pair endured a turbulent 2021/22 campaign as Campion struggled in the North West Counties – mainly because it was difficult to recruit.

Now back in a primarily Yorkshire-based league, Ashforth and Bicknell have made a host of superb signings and the duo are excited.

“It was huge and I stand by it and I’ve said it openly to anyone that if we had been kept in the North West Counties me and James would have stepped down,” Ashforth told Non League Yorkshire.

“That would have been us finished.

“I don’t know if that would have been me finished with Non League Football?

“It gets tougher and tougher each year and last year was tough.

“I had the year where I got relegated with Harrogate Railway and I enjoyed that season even though it was a battle to stay up.

“I enjoyed working with the people there.

“Last season was just a mission from start to finish and it was really hard to get motivated. 

“I was at the end of my tether and I was thinking ‘this is me done’.

“But me and James got our heads down and said ‘let’s see how we can do over the summer’ and we’re buzzing.

“We can’t wait to get started with the games.”

Campion joint manager Lee Ashforth
Marcus Day during his Campion days
Sean Hunter is rejoining Campion. Picture: Alex Daniel

Recruitment has been a lot easier for Campion, who have signed Sean Hunter, Joe Colley, Jack McGahan, Karl Fitzgerald, Dan Illingworth, Asa Mitchell, Aidan Day and Marcus Day.

“We haven’t had to sell the travelling,” Ashforth said.

“Conversations have been literally about that we want to be competitive in the league and we want to hit the ground running.

“Everything is going to be different from last year.

“Last year we didn’t go out on social media and say we have retained or recruited players.

“This year we have.

“That’s had a positive effect with players we have recruited and people out and about who are seeing we are putting a good team together.

“We’ve made eight signings now, all from the league above apart from Marcus Day.

“To sign seven players from the league above and get Marcus who is one of the better players in the league…we feel we have made eight very good signings.

“Our issue last season was we couldn’t recruit players because of the league we were in.

“Our contacts were Leeds based and the majority of players we have signed are either Leeds or Bradford.

“We’re delighted. Myself and James have worked really hard in talking to players and going to meet them and we have get eight over-the-line which is massive for us.

“We knew it would be a complete rebuild on top of the five-or-six we are keeping from last season. 

“Hopefully we’ll get one-or-two in before the season starts and we should have a squad which is going to be competitive.”

Unrelated pair Aidan Day and Marcus Day are the latest captures.

They are former Campion players and Aidan Day was a high level target according to Ashforth.

“We’ve chased Aidan Day literally from the end of the season,” he said.

“He was massive for us and we were desperate to get him on board.

“He was really important for Campion over the last few years and he left because he knew that league was going to be difficult and the recruitment wasn’t going to be great.

“I said in Non League Yorkshire at the time that it was disappointing to lose him so late but I could understand his reasons.

“As things happen we get Marcus Day on the same day as well.”

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