A sound start for Shelley
Wed 26th September 2018 | Shelley Community | By Ian Templeman
With his team sitting comfortably in mid-table in Division One North, Shelley manager Ash Berry is now looking to build on a promising start to the season.
Shelley made the step up from the West Yorkshire Amateur League in the summer, the latest step in a rapid rise through the amateur ranks in recent years, and Ash is satisfied with the way his squad has adapted to the step up.
“I’m happy with our start, to be honest”, he said. “Our idea was to get in and get established and I think we have done that.
“There's been no unpleasant surprises, we have played one or two of the stronger teams and I don't feel like we are out of our depth, which is the main thing”.
The team performances are all the more notable given that the vast majority have never played at this level of football before, and as Ash explained, the club policy in the summer was to keep the squad in place, and strengthen from within whenever possible.
“We were looking to sign players but our main priority was to make sure we didn't lose anybody, and we didn't which was great", he said.
“From there, we've been lucky enough to add four or five lads to what we had. So the nucleus is still there and pretty similar from last season but with four or five better players.
“Do I think we are the finished article - no I don't. I'm like any other manager, if I had the money to go out and get three or four more players in I would do. But you have got to work with what you have got, and our progress is based on building from within.
“We have put a good junior set up in place, we have three or four players in the team now who progressed through and are comfortable in the team. That is always going to be the plan moving forward, our Chairman is massive on that.
“Bearing that in mind we have to make sure we get it right at the bottom, and I take a lot of interest in the other teams. I have put a mini-team of coaches for the under 16s, 17s and 18s and 19s, about seven or eight of them, and a scout. We are really concentrating on trying to beef up our focus on those age groups”.
One issue that is both an advantage and a potential disadvantage in recruiting players is the club’s location, in a village six miles south east of Huddersfield. Ash says that can work both ways when trying to attract players to the club.
“It's a crying shame, but in and around Yorkshire we haven't got all that many semi-pro clubs, certainly compared to Manchester and Liverpool which are real hot beds.
“There's only about four or five Evo-Stik clubs in Yorkshire before you look at the Northern Counties East.
“We are out in the sticks a little bit, so we have to rely heavily on getting players from Huddersfield where we compete with Emley, and always have done.
“I am trying to look towards Barnsley and South Yorkshire as it's an area where there isn't so much competition for us, and we will try to pick a few up from there.
“We are the same as everyone, if we could do it all with local lads that's great but we have go further afield than that. We have a couple of Halifax lads, some locals, some Huddersfield lads and in the past year or two we have had some from Sheffield. We'll look at anyone from anywhere”.
One issue that has not so far been a problem is the journey across the Pennines for every away game. Although the club’s location would have traditionally meant the Northern Counties East League would normally have been the league to join, Ash says everyone at the club is happy to be heading west every other week.
“Logistically we had looked at it probably ten years ago, when we were in the Huddersfield and District League Division 5, said Ash.
“We are slap bang in the middle of the country and neither makes any difference to us, and really we would be more than happy to be in either league.
“I've been at Lancashire and Cheshire clubs in the past, at Clitheroe, Woodley Sports, Salford City, so I have worked over this side and got quite a decent knowledge anyway.
“Now we are here, what we would like to do is stay now, but that won't be up to us and we know we might get moved at some point.
“But those are circumstances beyond our control. We accept where we are and we understand that”.
Looking ahead, Ash is hoping for the progress his team have shown so far to be maintained.
“Generally, it's gone pretty much as I expected, it’s so far so good.
“For us mid-table was the bare minimum, and if we really excelled and punched above our weight then I would like to aim for the top six. But for us that would be over-achieving in my opinion.
“We’ve had three draws against Longridge Town, Cleator Moor Celtic and Steeton, where I felt we could really have won those games, and they are all higher up the league than we are.
“If we had turned one of those draws into a win we'd be even higher.
“But I don't want to be getting carried away, it's a long old season and we have had a nice start but we are work in progress. We are not looking too far in front, it's one game at a time”.