Carlton joint-manager Mark Pitts says the revival of West Yorkshire League side Carlton Athletic is fuelled by an injustice suffered by neighbouring club Rothwell when he was involved there. Leon Wobschall reports.
CARLTON ATHLETIC joint-manager Mark Pitts has unfinished business in the top-flight of the West Yorkshire League – and so do a number of his players.
Pitts was involved with the Rothwell FC side who were kicked out of the league at the end of the 2012-13 campaign – when they finished sixth – with the club subsequently joining the Wakefield and District League.
Pitts still considers that sanction imposed by the league, on disciplinary grounds, to be unjust and admits that it is serving as a motivational tool for both himself and a number of Carlton players who are well placed to return the club to the Premier Division.
As it stands, Carlton – relegated at the end of 2012-13– are in second spot behind leaders Pool in Division One and with promotion firmly in their grasp.
The Town Street outfit’s top-flight pedigree is there for all to see, with Carlton winning the division this millennium in 2007-08, 2002-03 and 2000-01 – while being runners-up on goal difference in 1998-99.
Pitts and co-boss John Flynn, a club stalwart at Carlton, would dearly like to recreate those heady days, with the former having an extra incentive to secure promotion for the club.
Pitts, who is also secretary at the club, said: “The ruling has changed and it’s three up, three down and if we get promoted, I’ll be happy.
“A lot of the lads here were at Rothwell with me and we felt it was an unjust decision at the time with what happened to them.
“That gives us that extra bit between their teeth this season to hopefully go back and finish what we started at Rothwell.
“The players who were with me want to get back and prove themselves and they are more than capable of doing it.
“It’s my first year here and the target is promotion to the Premier because Carlton have not been out of it that long.
“They are one of the most successful teams over the last 20 years.
“We are in a good place, but there’s still 12 games to go and a lot of work to do yet.”
He added: “Without blowing my own trumpet, I’d done quite a lot at Rothwell. From going up to the top division of the West Yorkshire League and playing on nice pitches every week, getting back to the Wakefield League was sort of back to square one as I’d been there before. My heart wasn’t in it really.
“I did six months and left them in good shape and they ended up doing the double in the Wakefield League.
“Then, I got approached by John Flynn at Carlton to go there at the start of this season. I said I’d give it a go.
“He said if I could bring some players and obviously they were struggling.
“Even though Carlton hadn’t struggled much before, they were in a bit of a mess.
“I then took the bull by the horns and we’ve got some good lads in there and the rest is in black and white.”
Several of Pitts’ ‘old boys’ are thriving, including Liam Moore, who is currently topping the goalscoring charts for Carlton with 15 goals.
Andrew Payne has netted 13 times, with the boys at the back also doing the business for Carlton, which Pitts believes has been the secret of the club’s success this term.
Pitts said: “The most impressive thing has been our two centre-backs Tom Greaves and Sam Graham.
“They have been absolutely outstanding week in week out and consistent. They have been a total rock for us.
“But all the boys are doing well.
“Someone I have taken everywhere I’ve been is Liam Robinson.
“He’s had a lot of opportunities to go and play at higher levels and he’s been really loyal.
“He’s been offered a little bit of money to go to the likes of Nostell and the North East Counties.
“He’s a good solid central midfielder who can pass the ball and he’s scored a few goals for us as well.
“We got a lot of young players and he’s 30 now and they look to him as a leader and an inspiration for them.
“Liam has also been with me before and he’s previously been at Counties teams and he’s a good striker. He had a bit of a break from the game last year, but has come back and worked hard and he is a real handful.
“We also have another striker who used to play for Ossett Town in Joe O’Neill.
“It didn’t really work out for him there and his confidence has been knocked a little bit, but he has scored a few goals for us and is a cracking player.”
It is not just the league in which Carlton have made waves this season, having also reached the quarter-finals of the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup, narrowly losing out 3-2 at Beeston St Anthony’s in a ‘real contest’ in early February, according to Pitts.
Carlton also copped disappointment in being edged out in their West Yorkshire League Cup last-eight encounter at Hunslet Club at the weekend, going down 2-1.
Despite exiting both competitions, the league has always massively been the priority for Carlton, according to Pitts, with the chemistry between himself and the vastly experienced Flynn clearly working if results are anything to go by this season.
Pitts said: “It’s nice to go well in the cups, but the league is your bread and butter every year.
“Me and John are doing fairly well. We run it together and it’s a joint management thing.
“It’s the old ‘good cop, bad cop.’ He used to be the bad cop, but he is the good one now and I am the bad one...
“We have got a fully committed group of players who train twice a week on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and there’s the games on Saturday.
“It is a lot of time to say you don’t get paid for it!
For Flynn, this season is also turning into one to savour after some relatively barren recent campaigns and he is hopeful Carlton can finish off the job.
Flynn, who been involved with the club for 25 years and picked up plenty of silverware along the way, said: “Over the years, we have been the most successful side in West Yorkshire (League).
“But three or four years ago, things went a little bit pear-shaped and we had some bad times and we were relegated after we had six points taken away.
“But this year, we have brought Mark in and Tim Banks as treasurer and things are looking good on and off the field and we have a good group of lads and it’s a good crack and we also have some good kids.
“We have had good and bad times and hopefully we are having the good times again.”