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Mention a 52 game run without a win to any Glasshoughton Welfare official or supporter and you will send shivers down their spine.
The success manager Craig Elliott had in the last two seasons is well-documented, but Castleford-based Glasshoughton are fortunate to still be going considering the challenges they have faced towards the end of the decade. Between February 2008 and September 2009, Glasshoughton failed to win a Northern Counties East League match – finishing bottom of the Premier Division and then Division One in consecutive seasons.
Welfare had nearly folded during 2007 as the committee were tired and fed-up of the perceived lack of support. Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar, who was living locally, made one league appearance to highlight their problems and it kept Welfare afloat.
But then a record number of games without a win followed – a period that saw four managers come and go until the arrival of Stuart Waddington halted the slide.
Elliott was appointed in August 2010 and he led Glasshoughton to promotion back to the Premier Division and chairman Phil Riding, who was manager for some of the 52 matches, admits Welfare came close to folding during the 52 games.
“It has been a long hard road and many thanks go to Bruce for putting us in the spotlight and probably saving the club – that’s how bad it was,” the 48-year-old said.
“The committee were disillusioned, we needed a fresh breath of air to come through the club and we got one in our director of football at the time Ray Gowan. The hard work from him probably saved the club from extinction.
“But then we had the 52 games and the record is all there to be seen – we had to pull in 16 or 17-year-old players that were in our under 19s and the old adage of getting ‘old-manned’ in senior football was very true.
“Dropping out of the NCEL was a real thought and we had to really sit down and have a good open frank discussion about the committee because first of all we had to get the committee right. We had to get the enthusiasm back into the committee and get that filtering back into the players to give them a bit of belief.”
The arrival of Bradford-based Waddington as manager in September 2009 had an instant effect as he won his first game in charge at Brighouse to end the dreadful run – a result Riding describes as “a platform and it was probably a turning point in Glasshoughton’s future”.
Waddington guided Welfare to 13th in Division One before moving to manage Liversedge. They then turned to local lad and former player Elliott, who made his name playing for Harrogate Town in the Northern Premier League.
Elliott (pictured above) had management experience with West Yorkshire League side Kellingley and the Pontefract Collieries reserve team and Riding admits his knowledge of local football fitted the bill.
He said: “We wanted to bring local talent back to the club and there to be a bit of pride for playing for the badge of Glasshoughton.
“In Craig Elliott he ticked all the boxes.
“He had played in non-league and also managed local Saturday and Sunday sides and although it was a gamble, if you sat down with Craig, he is an ambitious young manager.
“He knew what he wanted to do and this was the right platform for him. He had a network of players and confidence in his own ability and that filtered through to the players and it was an absolutely fantastic rollercoaster of emotions for us as a club and committee.”
Elliott led Welfare on a magical journey that saw them win the Wilkinson Sword Trophy and earn promotion to the Premier Division last April in the space of two years.
His achievements put Glasshoughton back on the map and “probably gave the committee a wake-up call as well the community in them getting behind us and supporting the club” says Riding.
The success attracted attention from clubs higher up the pyramid and Elliott was whisked away to become the new manager at Ossett Town last summer. Former Yorkshire Amateur boss Graham Hodder was named as his successor. However, results did not go Hodder’s way and he was out of the door by November and replaced by ex-Tadcaster Albion assistant manager Rob Hunter.
Hunter is closing in on steering Glasshoughton to safety – an achievement Riding is desperate to see so that Elliott’s work does not go to waste.
“The players and Craig and his management worked extremely hard, up and beyond the call of duty at times,” he said.
“They worked so hard to get promoted that I didn’t want to lose our position in the Premier Division without putting up a fight. Unfortunately we had to make the decision to part with Graham Hodder by mutual consent and that is what we did at an important time in the season.
“Rob Hunter and (assistant) Mark Smitheringale have come in and given a new sense of belief, a new ethic and the players have reacted well to the new manager coming in.”
Once as relegation is averted, Riding (pictured above) insists the aim is to be competitive week-in-week-out and take ‘each season at a time’. And although the dark days might be long ago as Glasshoughton are looking to build a successful future, Riding believes the players of 2008 are owed a debt of gratitude.
“I have to respect them because without them we wouldn’t have had a team and we wouldn’t have been to enjoy the seasons we have had over the last two years,” he said.
“You remember where you have come from and we will keep going and as with any club, you have to keep looking to progress.”