By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
AFC Emley manager Darren Hepworth believes the 2012-13 season has put the reformed club “back on the map”.
Emley finished seventh in the Northern Counties East League Division One table, but a FA Vase run revived memories of the old club reaching Wembley in 1988 and brought much-needed publicity for Emley.
After beating Barnoldswick Town in a game that will be remembered for years, Emley, formed in 2005 in opposition of the decision to move the old club to Wakefield, were knocked out by Hadleigh United at the last 32 stage.
Whilst disappointed not to have made the top four in the league, Hepworth still looks back on the campaign with pride because of the heroics of his side in the Vase.
He told SportsPerformer: “I think it has been a success, we have made real strides forward as a club.
“Yes, our ambition was to finish as a top six club and have a good run in the cup. Now, reaching the last 32 of the Vase – that’s certainly a good run and we were very close to making it through.
“We have definitely created interest in the club again and that is one thing we have done – putting it back on the map, which is great for the club.
“The Barnoldswick game goes down as the best of the season and for me in management.
“It was just a fantastic day and the pictures say it all. I asked the players to go out and make history and they did.”
He added: “I think people still get confused with the old club and think ‘are we still the same club?’ They forget about the split and the fact that we have reformed.
“Now people really understand that because we have been able to talk about the club on a national scale which has really helped us.
“It is a club with great pedigree and great history and it is just sleeping and waiting to come back and hopefully next season we can do that.”
Despite finishing seventh in Division One, Hepworth’s men were only ten points off runners-up Athersley Recreation and five from third-placed Louth Town.
Hepworth points his finger at the turn of the year for the moment when Emley’s promotion hopes began to slip away. He also admits the Division has been extremely tight.
He said: “We had a bad January and while we had still been training when the bad weather hit, we were slow getting into games, which cost us.
“We have also failed to punish teams that were around us (in the table) in games when we have been on top and we have ended up coming out on the wrong side of the result.
“It has been really tough (league) this year, it is a really tough division to get out of.
“All season you have had ten teams that could have gone up right until the last couple of weeks. It is a competitive league and I expect the same next season. You have the likes of Penistone and Ackworth wanting to come in and they are building strong sides.”
But, his main concern now is plotting an attempt at glory in the league next season.
Hepworth’s plans are already underway and he has received a major boost with the news that prolific striker Ashley Flynn (pictured above) will be staying at the Welfare Ground.
He said: “Next season is about progressing even further and promotion is the aim.
“If we keep the squad together, we’re looking at promotion for next year.
“We’re looking at two or three players in key positions, I won’t go into too much detail, but I think we are two or three players to take us to the level we need to be at.
“Ashley Flynn has been a revelation with 42 goals and at any level that is an incredible achievement and he is already confirmed for next season so that is a sign of players being happy playing here and wanting to progress with us.”