Emley Move to Wakefield – the Noughties

July 2, 2001

Following the incredible cup run in 1997-98, Emley once again reached the first round of the FA cup in 1998-99.  This time they were drawn against Rotherham United and the match took place at Barnsley’s Oakwell ground.  It was a match Emley should have won, dominating large parts of the game, but Rotherham got a late equalizer and a replay was necessary.  Interestingly it was also the match that current manager Richard Tracey made his full debut for Rotherham aged 19.

The replay was a bad night for Emley.  They took the lead in the first minute, but Rotherham were having none of it this time and ran out 3-1 winners.  Emley also had two men sent off as discipline broke down.

Emley were aiming to build on the FA Cup success and gain promotion to the Conference, the top level of non-league football.   This would be a massive step up for the village side and on the field Ronnie Glavin continued to strengthen the team, including brining in top quality striker, Simeon Bambrook.  The Club progressed to the sixth round of the FA Trophy before falling at home to Cheltenham Town, and finished a disappointing 13th in the league.

1999-2000 saw an improved finish of 5th in the league, but events off the field were now grabbing attention.  To gain Conference status (and even maintain their position in the Northern Premier League) Emley’s ground would need significant improvements.  In particular the three-sided nature of the Welfare Ground was a problem, but also a lot of money would need to be spent increasing the capacity and improving the facilities.  This was unrealistic at the village ground and so the board looked to a move to a new ground near Ossett, sharing with Wakefield RLFC.  In order to overcome the majority resistance to such a move the board took over control from the members in a stormy AGM where they co-opted all the players to out-vote the members.

The ground share fell through, but instead Emley made arrangements to share Belle-Vue stadium with Wakefield RLFC.  The season 2000-2001 saw Emley play all first team games there whilst the reserves continued to play at the Welfare Ground.  The team were successful on the pitch and the crowds, initially disappointing, improved as the season went on.  Vying with Stalybridge Celtic for the title and promotion to the Conference, Emley lost the home game against them in the last minute of their penultimate game and missed out by 1 point, despite having an amazing 101 points.

Steve Nicholson recalls this season: “With regard to the Stalybridge games home and away, I always say when asked, they beat us home and away that season with 10 men in both games! The 1st game was on an absolute quagmire of a pitch. How it was on I don’t know. We couldn’t warm up on the pitch. Only on the side of the touchline or behind the goal! We battered them 1st half, although, as we were to find out, it was nigh on impossible to get out of the mud pit bottom end of the pitch up the hill in the 2nd half. This played into Stalybridge’s long ball, long throw in tactics and ultimately we succumbed to the bombardment.”

“The crowd at Belle Vue for the 2nd game was massive for a league game. I can’t really remember much about it to be honest apart from the sending off and their 3rd goal in injury time. Gutted, but game on, still 2 games to go.”

“I remember grinding out a really tough 1-0 win at Burscough with a late Danny Day goal. He broke through one on one with the keeper to beat. It was never in doubt! Honest 👀”

“Then Hyde away, last game which we won as well. Fingers crossed Stalybridge lost, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”

“To get 101 points in any league and lose must be some sort of record? But as I said before, they beat us twice with 10 men. Fair play to them.”

“Yeovil in the trophy was another massive game which we narrowly lost 2-3 against the soon to be Conference champions and FA Trophy winners. Same happened against Cheltenham in the Trophy. Eventual winners of league and Cup double.”

“When you look back at our cup draws over the years, we really don’t get it easy do we??”

That was the high-water mark for the Club.  The following season they finished fifth and the board decided to rename the Club Wakefield-Emley (and subsequently Wakefield & Emley), much to the displeasure of many Emley supporters. In 2003-04 Wakefield-Emley finished bottom of the league, and would have been relegated for the first time since becoming a senior non-league team in 1969, but other club withdrawals meant a reprieve.

Crowds had dwindled and Emley were now struggling to maintain their position.  At the end of 2004-2005 the Northern Counties East League disbanded the reserve division that Emley had continued to play in (and dominate) which would have meant an end to football at the Welfare Ground.  But a group of supporters decided that Emley must live on as a football club in their own village and AFC Emley was formed…

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