AFC Emley – a New Beginning

July 1, 2005

When the NCEL disbanded its reserve division in 2005, it was possible that football would no longer be played at the Welfare Ground.  The reserve team had continued playing there despite the first’ team’s move to Wakefield.  Fortunately a group of supporters led by Graham Roys, along with the reserve team managers, Ray Dennis and Nicky Bramald decided to create a new Club that could continue at the Welfare Ground representing the village of Emley.

So AFC Emley, named to avoid confusion with the ‘old’ club, was born.

The first season was tough.  Emley entered the West Yorkshire League Division One (below the Premier Division).  The management of the ‘old’ club had neglected the Welfare Ground following their move and much investment was needed to bring it up to standard.  It was also expensive to run for a step 8 club with no gate income.  The club did well though and finished runners-up and applied to the NCEL as part of the re-organisation of the pyramid that was underway.  The facilities easily good enough for Emley to be accepted.

The directors of what was now Wakefield FC had also sold off the social club (now The Wentworth) so AFC Emley had no bar.  Hence the volunteers extended the committee room into a new conservatory to provide much need bar income for the Club’s foray into the much higher standard of the NCEL.

The first few seasons were hard going as the management tried to put a competitive team together with a very limited budget.  Dennis and Bramald had continued to run the team and were successful in stabilising the Club in mid table of Division 1.  Soon however a change was needed and old favourite Ian Banks took over assisted by Ash Berry.  Banks again struggled with the financial restrictions and the team didn’t really develop as hoped.

Darren Bland took over and brought in Darren Hepworth to manage the development team.  Bland’s tenure was short lived and when he left to take a job at Sheffield United’s academy, Hepworth stepped into the first team role in 2010.

This gave the Club the boost it needed. Hepworth’s enthusiasm and drive as well as his knowledge of the game and ambition to play expansive football soon had an effect on the field.  By the 2012-13 season Hepworth had built a team that could challenge in the NCEL and in the FA Vase.  That season saw a memorable run in the Vase which included an impressive victory at Barnoldswick Town, then highly placed in the North West Counties League.  Emley progressed to the fourth round before being defeated but this run finally gave the Club the impetus it needed.

The 2015-16 season saw Emley challenging for promotion Ashley Flynn scored an incredible 78 goals (5 were later annulled when Lincoln Moorlands folded) and Emley made the play-offs.  After beating Penistone Church in the semi-final Emley went to Bottesford and were 1 goal up with 30 seconds left on the clock.  The ref then awarded Bottesford a penalty which took the game to extra-time and penalties.  Despite taking a 2 goal lead in the penalties, Emley lost.

Despite the devastation of that defeat Emley once again challenged in 2016-17.  The Club looked certainties for promotion but were pipped by a point by Hall Road Rangers and on goal difference by Pontefract.  This time the disappointment was too much and Penistone gained revenge, beating Emley in the play-off semi-final.

Hepworth’s departure following that defeat saw Joe Howson take over..  With many departures from the team Howson struggled to build a competitive side and by Christmas 2019 the Club was struggling at the wrong end of Division One again.  Marlon Adams was brought in as caretaker with Hepworth as his assistant and they steadied the ship for the team to finish in a respectable position in the league.  But now big changes were afoot.

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