Saturday, 11 June 2011


By James Grayson

Officials and supporters of Ossett Albion rejoiced this week after they were given a surprise reprieve from relegation to the Northern Counties East League.

However, could the good news leave the club’s master-plan in ruins?

Long serving manager Eric Gilchrist, who was also chairman for 18 months, announced his resignation after ten years back in March to allow the club time to find his successor.

Gilchrist stepped down after a second successive bottom two finish in the Evo Stik First Division North.

Their struggles were mainly due to severe financial constraints – the only reason Gilchrist took on the additional duties of being chairman was because of concerns the club wouldn’t complete the 2009-10 campaign.

Gilchrist steadied the ship off-the-field and felt the time was right to let a new man take the wheel.

He left to a hero’s farewell at the end of the season and said he believed the club should appoint someone with a coaching background to bring through Ossett’s youngsters into the first team.

Albion has history when it comes to developing youth players.

The most recent example: Dave Syers, Bradford City player’s player of the season and leading scorer in his first season at Valley Parade.

Stephen Downes, who most notably played for Farsley Celtic, started his career at Ossett before Gilchrist helped him move to Football League side Grimsby Town.

You can also go back to the mid-1980s when future Bradford PA and Ossett Town boss Gary Brook went from Albion to the League to play for Newport County.

In 2011, Ossett have a number of young players breaking through and the club listened to Gilchrist by appointing Lloyd Fellows and Paul Watson as joint bosses of the first team.

The pair had been running the reserve team with success for a few seasons - most recently winning the Lancashire League Cup.

The appointment was made when the club were getting ready to play in the NCEL Premier and the youngsters looked set to be given their chance.

Albion also had far more local games to look forward to, meaning less travelling and reduced coach bills.

But, Ossett may have to change the plan and the big decision is whether their youngsters are ready to compete against the likes of AFC Fylde and Skelmersdale – two teams determined to smash the cash around to win promotion.

Ossett also have to decide whether to pay for experienced players to avoid a third relegation in a row, if the youngsters are deemed to not be ready.

A move which would stretch their limited finances.

One saving grace is the local derbies with Wakefield and the old enemy Ossett Town – a game likely to attract hundreds of people.

But, if by October and Ossett are going to go the same way as last season, surely they will wish they were in the NCEL, challenging near the top.

Saturday, 4 June 2011


Plenty to think about: Guiseley boss Steve Kittrick

Big Loss: James Walshaw in action for Guiseley

By James Grayson
Since his low key arrival at Nethermoor in March 2009, there is no doubt James Walshaw has led to Guiseley to the lofty heights they currently hold.

Walshaw had left UniBond First Division North side Wakefield to join his old mentor from his Ossett Town days, Steve Kittrick’s team as the Lions were trying to save their season.

Stranded outside the UniBond Premier play-off zone, Walshaw spearheaded a new-look system and Guiseley's fortunes dramatically changed.

Guiseley made the top five before bowing to eventual winners Ilkeston Town in the semi-final.

The rest is history – Guiseley went onto win the league the following season with Walshaw bagging both goals on the unforgettable final day – two of 27.

The Conference North beckoned and with 34 goals plundered in last season, it is easy to see why Blue Square Premier outfit Darlington have taken a punt on the 27-year-old.

But, for Guiseley, it’s the end of an era and Kittrick faces a daunting task in finding his replacement.

The Lions boss revealed this week he is talking to a striker from Altrincham, but without naming the candidates, Walshaw’s 34-goal haul leaves a huge void.

Not many strikers score that many times during a campaign and those who do are already tied up at other clubs.

Kittrick has kept hold of the services of Joe O’Neil and signed Danny Forrest (Barrow) and Alex Davidson (North Ferriby), but the trio are unlikely to match Walshaw’s efforts.

If Guiseley want to repeat last season’s heroics and go one better by winning promotion, they need a big non-league name.

Lee Ellington may be another option.

Kittrick is long-time admirer of the former Farsley man – who is also out of contract at Harrogate Town where he has just endured an injury ravaged campaign.

Locally-based Ellington is proven at Conference North level with his scoring records at Gainsborough, Stalybridge and Farsley along to justify bringing him to Nethermoor.

But, because of last season, ‘The Duke’ would be a gamble.

However, with O’Neil, Forrest and Davidson and possibly Ellington, it would be a lethal quartet and surely Walshaw’s goals can be shared around.