Golcar United defender Joe Skarz says that winning promotion with the Weavers is a better feeling than achieving it at Wembley with Rotherham United as a professional in 2014.
Saturday’s play-off final was an emotional day for the 32-year-old former Huddersfield Town player as he got to celebrate lifting the cup with his dad Keith.
United beat Holker Old Boys up in Cumbria in the play-off final in their own backyard, winning the game 2-1. Ben Burnett scored the extra-time winner to make it a special day for all involved at the Weavers.
Skarz said: “My dad came up to watch and he said to me after the game: ‘I’ve never seen you celebrate like that before.’ I told him that when I was a professional I was being paid to win so while it was an amazing feeling, it was my job.
“This promotion felt miles better because I was doing it out of the love for the game. I don’t have to keep playing but I do because I love the sport.”
Skarz, now a coach at Sheffield United, added: “This promotion means more to me than the Wembley one because I know how hard (joint managers) Ash and Gav Connor and myself have worked all season to make it happen. There were long text chats between us decoding who to play and what tactics to use.
“I know how hard the players have worked, the staff at the club, the volunteers and the chairman. The club has grown whilst I’ve been here.”
Skarz expected a tough test from Holker who had finished second in the North West Counties Division One North table. United had drawn and lost to their final opponents in the regular season.
Skarz said of the game: “We knew it was going to be really tough. I was under no illusions on how tough it was going to be, especially going up there into their backyard. It is a long trip and they have been one of the best teams this season. They know how to play their sloping pitch, they are an energetic young team with great movement up top.
“I thought it was our best defensive display of the season, which is credit to all the lads.
“When they went 1-0 up I was worried because they are a fantastic team who are well organised defensively and I knew it would take a piece of luck or magic to get back into it.
“That equaliser came from the training ground and we’d worked on it all week leading up to the game. The move worked and their left centre-back Jamie Mellen was unfortunate to score the own goal.
“I think he’s the best player in the league, he’s come out of Everton’s academy, he’s only a young lad but you can tell he has class. He’ll play at a higher level for sure.
“We are a fit team, they were cramping up and we weren’t. That’s credit to how hard we work on fitness, but I believe we can be even fitter if we want to be.”
A gallery of match action by Huddersfield Hub photographer SEAN DOYLE
The game ended 1-1 in normal time and despite the team being tired they energised themselves for one last push. The former Terrier was always confident of a positive outcome.
He said: “We said at full-time going into extra-time that whatever happens from here we have had a terrific season. If we lose we take it on the chin but if we win we respect Holker and the season they’ve had.
“Obviously we did win and afterwards we respected Holker and that was only right. They were unlucky and played well. I think you gain respect from other teams by doing that.
“Ben got the winner and his name is now forever in Golcar history. I said to him at the end that although he hasn’t always played he’s been a big part of this season and I was delighted that he scored.
“Everyone who was there in the final supporting us or playing deserves to enjoy this promotion.”