Yorkshire Amateur want to win historic promotion

Yorkshire Amateur joint managers Phil Harding and Neil Sibson. Picture: Jon Knight

Joint manager Neil Sibson reckons Yorkshire Amateur have never had a squad as strong in their 100-year history as they aim to win promotion to the BetVictor League for the first ever time.

The Ammers have recruited wisely this summer, adding higher league experience in the likes of former Farsley Celtic favourites Ross Daly and Aiden Savory, plus Brighouse Town captain Adam Field and Guiseley’s Steve Smith and Niall Heaton.

Those five complement the vast number of proven winners already at Bracken Edge – such as Ryan Serrant, Matt Dempsey, Ash Flynn, among others.

With three automatic promotion places up for grabs in the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division, Sibson believes his side have what was needed last season when the Ammers fell away from top spot and eventually finished fifth.

“The signings we are made are of the kind of pedigree we need,” Sibson told Non League Yorkshire.

“They are all nearly proven at this level and above so we have added some real experience, quality and a bit of youth to an already good squad.

“This is my third season with the first team and it is the strongest squad I’ve had. To say that we got promoted last year and it was the first time the club had been promoted in 100 years, we had a strong squad. Now we’re even stronger so yes definitely, it is probably the most strongest squad in the history of the club.

“It is really exciting. We finished fifth last season – the highest Yorkshire Amateur have ever finished in the pyramid – and we did actually lead the Division for half of the season.

“We know where it went wrong and one of the reasons was the mentality. So we’ve got guys in now who we think have that mentality. They have nearly all been there and done it and they will probably take us to where we want to go.

“The aim is to try and get in the top three. This year there is a lot to play for.

“Last year there was only one promotion spot and I think when we faded away, mentally some of the lads knew there was only one spot and were off the pace.

“We also didn’t play as good when the winter came. We like to get down and play. I’ll take some of the blame as I insisted we get the ball down and play. Sometimes you have to go long and into the channels and I don’t think we had the personnel at the time to go long.

“We can adapt now and change formation. We have tried three formations in pre-season and we are comfortable with them all. So that is a new dimension for us.”

Southerns CEO Andy Kendall-Jones (centre) with Yorkshire Amateur joint managers Neil Sibson (left) and Phil Harding (right) in 2017

Sibson has been at the heartbeat of Ammers’ emergence as one of Yorkshire’s most progressive Non League clubs.

For 30-years, maybe more, the club constantly came close to folding. That changed in 2012 when local men Phil Harding and Lincoln Richards joined the committee, became first team managers and saved the club.

The pair turned the team from cannon fodder and into a stable Division One team. They also led the initial overhaul of their Bracken Edge home.

The arrival of main sponsor Andy Kendall-Jones, the chief executive of Southerns in 2017 has since propelled the Ammers to a different galaxy.

Mr Kendall-Jones told NLY in 2017 he wanted to see “continuous improvement in the facilities and football on-the-pitch” over a five year period.

Those two promises have been kept as there has been a 3g training pitch installed, plus other ground improvements and investment in the playing squad which enabled Harding and Sibson to lead the Ammers into the Premier Division for the first ever time.

Sibson says the club’s sponsor is really happy with the progress made.

“When you look back at the interview you did with Andy and ourselves two years ago, he’s still here and he’s always said that he’s here for the long run and not the short-term,” he said.

“He’s pleased with how things have gone and are going.

“On-the-pitch we’ve done everything he wanted and we’re actually one step ahead on our plan. He gave us two years to get out of this Division and this is our second year.

“In the first season when we were sixth and it looked like we weren’t going up, I said to him ‘look Andy, sorry it doesn’t look like we’re going up’. He said ‘don’t worry about it, we’ve progressed, Rome wasn’t built in a day’.

“He hasn’t put us under any pressure. He’s a football man and first and foremost he’s doing it for the community which is fantastic.

“The club has come a long way in the last two years.

“Next time you’re up at the ground you’ll see that there has been lots of improvements. 

“We have new dressing rooms, the clubhouse has been redone. There’s new dugouts, new fencing. The ground has improved dramatically. People who go up now see it as a nice place to go and watch a game of football.

“We knew we had to do something because a lot of people came last season and said ‘yeah you have a good team, but you need to sort your ground out’. So we’re aware of that and we have done a lot of work to get things right.”

The Ammers continued their perfect start to pre-season with a 5-1 victory at Glasshoughton Welfare.

Sibson was happy with the win, ahead of home clashes with Guiseley and Leeds United under 18s in the coming days.

“I thought we played well in patches, we weren’t brilliant,” he said.

“We probably stayed in third gear so we didn’t hit our straps, but it is pre-season and we don’t want to peak too early.

“We created plenty of chances so you have to be pleased with that, but we must have missed five or six so on a different day it could have been ten goals.

“We made a lot of changes too which wasn’t ideal and disrupted the team – not the shape.

“That’s our fourth game and we have won all four by scoring plenty of goals. We have Guiseley on Thursday and Leeds United U18s on Sunday at Bracken Edge and they’ll be more of a test for us.

“That is exactly what we need going into the new season.”

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