Team of the Week: Miners unearth a rich seam of talent

Miners Arms
Miners Arms
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Reflecting on recent successes, no one involved with Miners Arms FC can forget the times when prospects weren’t quite so rosy.

Until last season, they struggled to get a team together to compete in the Wakefield & District Sunday League.

“I fully remember when we started one game with nine players, had a man sent off and played on with eight” manager Phil Clifford recalls.

“Even for large parts of last season, we were never able to field the same team.” Phil stated. “Now we’re having to send people home.

“We’ve gone from playing for fun, to taking things much more seriously.”

The club has risen against a storied background of Sunday football in the small town of Altofts, tucked between Wakefield and Castleford.

Formed in 2011, they begun life in Championship Two, the bottom tier of the Wakefield leagues.

These early years were a struggle. By all accounts, the team spent most of the time getting hammered, and not in the bar at the Miners either.

Problems arose when, on the eve of the 2013 season, manager Craig Hodgson resigned his position due to personal reasons.

Clifford, club secretary since its inception, was forced to take the reins one week before the start of the campaign – and his role at the club still often involves cleaning the kit. One struggles to imagine Jose Mourinho hunched over the basin, wringing out the washing.

“We tried to look for a quick replacement, but unfortunately couldn’t find anyone.” he explains.

“Technically we are still looking!

“Fate had it, I stepped up for the first game and we’ve built the team from there.”

Last season saw the Miners finish fourth in Championship Two which, by the vagaries of the league structure, was enough to secure their first promotion.

As Clifford explained this was largely due to a marked improvement in the organisation of the team.

Shaun Hodgson, responsible for the financial wellbeing of the club, takes pride in the new-found professionalism of their approach.

“I would hate to think that we would be short this season. We won’t be.” Shaun affirmed.

“There’s a good comradeship in the group, although you wouldn’t think so when you see what they put on WhatsApp about each other!” he laughed.

“They all stop in the pub of a Sunday and have good crack with us.”

“They’ve got the makings of a good side, as well.” Shaun said. “Some have played at a much higher level, with Horse & Jockey and Peacock.”

When faced with setting up a Sunday side from the ground up, Shaun had little but his own ingenuity to fall back on.

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

Shaun explains: “I set up a sweepstake among us regulars at the Miners. We guess the results, win lose or draw, of seven games, usually in the Premier League, for 50 pence a pop.

“I normally pick the toughest ones so people have a job guessing!” he joked.

“I’ve also done race nights, which have done well.” Shaun enthuses. “Instead of paying, we use a wooden board and whoever gets four aces, wins.

“It’s a good earner for us. We’ve already paid half our pitch fees for this season.”

Hodgson’s efforts in raising funds helped get the ball rolling and continues to keep the club on a stable footing.

They have been able to attract generous donations from Danny Gowland and Darren Thompson, who have lent their financial support to the endeavour.

Despite the influx of such new faces, the constant threads that have run through the young history of Miners are long-serving stalwarts Michael Thompson, Simon Matthews and Chris McTiernan.

Thompson, according to Shaun, has barely missed a game in the four years of the club’s existence.

Clifford acknowledges their influence: “We’ve build the team around those three guys.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without them,” Phil said. “They are into their 40’s and still playing well. They’ll be due to pick up their bus passes soon!”

Former professional Jamie Price is a regular at the Community Sports Club, where the team play their home games. The Miners Arms itself is just over Church Road.

Price is first-team coach and a registered player at Bradford Park Avenue, but still turns out on Sundays for Miners.

Price, 34, enjoyed a lengthy league career which begun at Elland Road as a trainee in 1997, coming through the ranks at the same time as Jonathan Woodgate and Alan Smith.

He went on to play for York City and Doncaster Rovers.

It may be no coincidence that his involvement has coincided with an upturn in fortunes.

Last year, Miners went out of both cup competitions at the first hurdle, which allowed them to focus firmly on their league season.

This term, though, they have progressed with ease in the Seymour Cup, the Landlords Trophy and the League Cup.

They have made an impressive start to life in Championship One, sitting top of the table.

“We have a real desire to win in the group,” said Clifford. “They are hungry and have a great attitude.”

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League: Championship One, Wakefield & District

Ground: Church Road

Formed: 2011

Managers: Ronnie Griffiths (2011-12), Craig Hodgson (2012-13), Phil Clifford (2013-present)

Longest serving players: Michael Thompson, Simon Matthews and Chris McTiernan

High point: Gaining promotion from Championship Two.

Low point: Down and out when boss resigned on eve of season.

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