By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
North Ferriby United chairman Les Hare has heaped praise on star manager Billy Heath ahead of the “biggest week in the club’s history”.
With two games remaining in the Evo Stik Premier Division, Ferriby are the leaders, but only because of a superior goal difference over Hednesford Town.
Ferriby, who have started in the Yorkshire League before progression into the NCEL and then the NPL, host Chorley tomorrow (Saturday) before a final day home clash against Ashton United which will decide who wins promotion to the Conference North.
Manager Heath has been a revelation since his arrival at Church Road in October 2011 – the former Bridlington Town boss kept them in the Premier Division and also won the Doodson Sport Cup, which the club won again this week.
Hare, speaking before the penalty shootout victory over Curzon Ashton, spoke of his delight at the impact Heath has had on the club, who stand on the verge of a creating a glorious new chapter in their history.
Hare, 60, has been chairman for 19 years and has overseen their rise from the Northern Counties East League and was in the role when the Villagers played at Wembley in the 1997 FA Vase final.
“Someone asked me the other week about what is the best Ferriby side because we had some corkers over the years,” he said.
“We’re plying our trade at the highest level ever. Therefore you have to turn round and say what Billy Heath (pictured above) is achieving at the moment as a manager is the greatest moments for the football club because of the sheer standard and level that we’re playing at.
“When he came in 18 months ago, his remit was to keep us in the Premier Division and from the moment he came in to the end of last season, he took us from third bottom to eighth, to the final of the Doodson Cup and got an ethic going that has been carried into this year.
“Team spirit is a huge part of it and everyone that knows Billy and the teams that he has managed knows the camaraderie and spirit is a key part of them.
“Yes you have to have some decent players, but the key has been able to get the chemistry. We also have some exceptionally good talented players with experience. Billy has done a wonderful job in getting the chemistry.”
Those players Heath has assembled have earned Ferriby 26 league wins with 16 of those coming away from home.
If they keep their nerve Ferriby will reach the Conference North and Hare, who claims Ferriby “set out to survive” in the Premier Division this season, says they won’t be overstretching themselves, should his club win promotion.
He said: “You can learn from other football clubs.
“One of the aspects I have learnt from my 35 years in football is keeping your feet on the ground. I’ve seen so many football clubs and people at football clubs do things that they would never do in business and I’ve never really understood that.
“You can’t go and get things that you can’t afford because effectively it is going to end in tears. Some people have said to me already, ‘can you afford to go up?’ The answer to that is ‘yes of course’. That’s because if you don’t intend to spend any more, you cut your cloth to suit. You don’t have to pay fantastic wages.
“If the wages we have got aren’t good enough to attract the players to keep us in that division, the very worst that could happen to us is that we go back down again.”
Hare, who works in the insurance industry, also insists Ferriby have the infrastructure to make the step-up.
“We’re always prepared, we’re a well-run club and always have been,” he added.
“I’ve always been a great advocate of doing as well off-the-pitch as on-the-pitch and in some respects we have been more successful off-the-pitch in recent years. So therefore, I think a lot of the planning and preparation that we have done in regards to our facilities over the years is now holding us in good stead.
“We do need to some work (if we go up), but only minor. We have hosted Hull City reserves for a number of years and when they were in the Premier League for instance, we had a lot of work done at the ground to bring us up to scratch. We’re certainly got a nice little ground now.”