James Knowles hopes to celebrate a big birthday by lifting a trophy as captain of Emley AFC.

Knowles turns 40 on Sunday – a day after the Pewits take on Maltby Main in the final of the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Cup.

Emley finished third in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division and could cap a great season by winning a cup competition they’ve won eight times before.

The game is on Saturday (May 20) at Doncaster Rovers’ Eco-Power Stadium (7.30pm kick-off).

Knowles is a vastly-experienced central defender who has played in many big matches before in a career that has taken him to Bradford Park Avenue, Farsley Celtic and Halifax Town among others.

Knowles has been at Emley for three years and this year has become stand-in captain due to Jamie Price’s injuries. 

Knowles said: “I’m really looking forward to the game and to win it would be a great birthday present. We really don’t want to end the season without having anything to show for it.

“I had planned to have a birthday bash this weekend but obviously with the final being so late I had to move it to last week. We have all been working hard in training to get ready for this game. 

“Maltby are a good side and one we know will give us a good game, but I’m confident we’ll be ready for them. I think most of the lads feel that if we don’t win this cup it will be a poor season overall and we won’t have achieved what we set out to do. It’d be a nice way to finish the season if we could get it over the line.”

James Knowles

Emley is steeped in history in this competition having won it eight times. However, their last County Cup final appearance was more than two decades ago. Emley boss Richard Tracey wants this group of players to write their own names into the club’s history books.

Tracey said: “We attended the club’s 120th anniversary celebrations the other day and it was really great to hear the successful Emley managers of the past talk about the times they won things with the club.

“I want to win something with this group of players. Yes, we got promotion to this division but it didn’t feel like a proper promotion because we couldn’t celebrate properly with the fans due to Covid-19 and the way the world was back then. So if we beat Maltby Main I think that will make it a really special moment for everyone involved.

“The final is late this year which is frustrating because it’s a month since we last played and so we’ve had to keep the players going in training.

“We played a behind-closed-doors internal friendly with our whole squad involved which was good. We have near enough a fully fit and available side so we’ll be doing all we can to get the win and bring the cup home.”