Emley AFC have had a year to remember on and off the pitch. Dealing with a global pandemic, securing promotion and building an academy from the ground up, the Pewits have certainly had a busy year. Huddersfield Hub’s STEVEN DOWNES spoke exclusively to Emley chairman Andrew Painten and boss Richard Tracey to look back on 2021.
The Pewits have had a tough start since gaining promotion to the Northern Counties East League Premier Division. Having spent all the campaign so far in the lower reaches of the table, both Andrew Painten and Richard Tracey are hoping to move up the standings in 2022.
Taking things back to the start of 2021, Emley spent the first few months not sure which division they’d be playing in following the abandonment of the 2020/21 season. The club had come close twice to promotion however due to the 2019/20 and 2020/21 campaigns being abandoned no one knew where they stood, particularly since the FA were determined to restructure the leagues at Emley’s level too.
Reflecting back on that uncertainty Painten said: “The length of time of us not playing was so frustrating. After not being promoted in 2020 with the season being abandoned in March last year, I don’t think we ever truly got over that. When the 2020/21 season began it was difficult for us because we should have been promoted by that point.
“However we were now playing at the same level but in an entirely different league. We moved from the North West Counties in 2019/20 to the Northern Counties East League for the 2020/21 season. We started last season well and were top of the league, going once again for promotion and again it got abandoned and it was so frustrating and disappointing.
“From that point we started to put our case forward saying we and others deserved promotion for our performances over the two abandoned seasons. Thankfully the FA listened to us and told us if we wanted to get promoted we needed to fill out a form. We got through that and got promoted.”
Boss Tracey had similar frustrations and recalled: “Not playing was difficult for players and staff because being at Emley does take your mind off the daily grind of your job. It certainly helps people mentally when we are playing and so when we weren’t it did effect people. Not gaining promotion was very frustrating as well as the uncertainty that we had.”
After successfully applying for promotion, Painten clearly remembers the moment he was told the club would be promoted: “I had built up a good relationship with someone at the FA and he did me the great honour of calling me an hour before the decision was made publicly to say we had got promoted.
“I was driving at the time and pulled over to take the call. I was in the middle of nowhere and had my daughter in the car and when the FA person phoned I just burst into tears. I got out of the car and my daughter could see me crying on the phone but also dancing. She probably wondered what the hell was going on!”
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“We had all put so much effort into getting this moment that we deserved. We didn’t want to do it that way but we earned it, took it and deserved it and were delighted to go up.”
Unlike Golcar United who played in the Yorkshire Trophy, Emley decided to withdraw from the pre-season tournament and build up the 2021/22 campaign differently.
Painten said: “We were comfortable in our decision to not take part in the Yorkshire Trophy. Our pitch and facilities needed some work so we just played friendlies at our own leisure.”
Tracey added: “We were planning to play in the Yorkshire Trophy, and whilst we commended everyone at Brighouse Town for setting it up, we just felt once it got pushed back and maybe not having fans through the gates, it was getting a bit close to normal pre-season anyway.”
Both Painten and Tracey accept that pre-season and the start to the current campaign weren’t as smooth as they would have liked.
Painten said: “The first few weeks of the season were tough because we had people out injured, players on holiday or dealing with Covid. So we weren’t able to get a settled team and arguably we still haven’t.”
Tracey added: “Pre-season didn’t run as smoothly as we would have liked due to various things. That meant we weren’t as ready for the season as we’d hoped and we’ve been chasing our tails ever since. I think now we are getting to the end of the year we are looking a lot better for sure. Hopefully we can keep progressing forward in 2022.”
Both men are confident though that the club can push on in 2022.
Painten said: “We are still finding our feet at this level. I still think with a good amount of luck we could make it into the top six. It’s a very compressed division and so one or two results can easily change how the table looks.
“The club is on a very good financial footing. We never spend beyond our means. We have some fantastic people that work across the club dealing with finances to commercial and although it is a football club we do run it like a business and if we continue to do that the club will be here for many years to come.”
Tracey added: “We’ll continue to do our best and try to make 2022 a successful and happy year for Emley AFC.”