This year will long be remember for a time of change, and financial pressures, which have not helped our cause.
On the other hand, the promotion of The Windsor Food Service County Senior League to a step seven league on the football pyramid and the great news surroundings Sheffield and Hallamshire CFA’s moves towards Westfield have counter balanced the proceedings.
The recession was always going to be a big stumbling block for our clubs, with sponsorship and donations being hit hardest leaving another of our clubs not paying their players, while others are now unable to pay even training expenses.
To make matters worse it’s likely to bite even deeper and clubs must adjust or they face going under. Already Dinnington Town and Hallam have joined Maltby Main and Worsbrough Bridge in not paying wages, a move that I applaud, because the club must come first.
It is though very frustrating that in both the Evo-Stik and North Counties East Leagues, some clubs have never paid such big wages, while others are facing huge cut backs.
The respect campaign is going well but after visiting over 90 games so far this season I find that hard to believe. Statistics would suggest that this is simply not true, with nearly 50 of our senior clubs players having been sent off so far this season, and even more sent off by teams playing against ours. Managers and club directors must address the problem but they are afraid of the consequences or simply not bothered as the issue grows.
On the playing front, Staveley have again reached the last 32 of the FA Vase, though some would argue a trip to Exeter in January, is far from rewarding.
Worksop Parramore currently top the NCEL’s Division One while Handsworth are fifth and Worsbrough Bridge eighth. In the Premier newly promoted Staveley are seventh with games in hand and Parkgate are also pushing for promotion, being a place behind.
Sheffield Club are in a strong play off position in Division One South of the Evo-Stik League, but on the other side of the coin Stocksbridge Park, Maltby Main and Dinnington Town are all involved in relegation battles in their respective divisions.
It is now that time of the year to hand out my accolades to players, managers, committee members, individuals and clubs alike for all the great work they have done in the past year for our Non League game.
I start with our beleaguered managers. Julian Watts has done a superb job at Hallam. True he did not save them from relegation, but they fought hard right up to their final game and this season they have done well to stay in mid-table while Doug Shelley and Chris Hilton have again performed well for their respective clubs Parkgate and Worsbrough Bridge.
However, my choice as Manager of the Year goes to Billy Fox at Staveley. He earned them promotion and in doing so they broke almost every record in their books and this season they remained unbeaten for a long time, while still enjoying a strong FA Vase and Senior Cup run. I feel one of the secrets of their success, is the strong family atmosphere they have built up, with their Reserves and Under-19 squads feeding right through the club.
Player of the Year is always a difficult and a number of them could easily receive my accolade, with Gascoigne playing well for Sheffield FC; Tom Jones at Staveley their king pin in defence and young Worsbrough Bridge striker Podmore always excites me.
However, for the first time, my Player of the Year accolade goes to a goalkeeper, Stocksbridge Park’s Ben Scott. His performances, particularly in the past few months, have been outstanding when the team have been far from strong, particularly in defence. His heroics and daring skills have earned him this award and rightly so.
My Young Player of the Year vote goes to Aymen Tahar, the 20-year-old Staveley midfield player. He came up through their ranks to prove young players can make it to the top at one club and I’m excited for the youngster who can still go further up the ladder, if he has the desire because he he certainly has the skill.
The Outstanding Contribution to Non League Football award goes to John Mills at Maltby Main. He’s always at the forefront of everything at the club and club secretary is just one of the many unpaid jobs he does.
Finally, I have been asked to name my Squad of the Year, so here goes. I base my judgement on the performances I have seen this season:
Goalkeeper: Ben Scott (Stocksbridge Park), back four: Danny Cardwell (Parkgate), Callum Westney (Worsbrough Bridge), Karl Colley (Worksop Parramore) and Chris Fawcus (Staveley); midfield: Nathan Swindells (Parkgate), Matt Varley (Sheffield FC), Matt Telling (Stocksbridge Park) and Steve Woolley (Sheffield FC); strikers: Ashley Worsfold (Parkgate) and Connor Higginson (Sheffield FC).
A very Merry, and of course, a very Sporting Christmas to you all.