WITH just one league game left to play between Ibstock United and Barrow Town on Saturday, it can now be seen very clearly the measure of success which Heanor Town achieved.
League champions by a clear seven points – something which going into the Easter fixture list didn’t look possible. The title chance was yawning, but the distance between the Lions and the rest of the pack (!) now looks far more comfortable than it really way.
What the seven point gap does illustrate with immense clarity is the way the Heanor Town players went about their end of season task. Some of the games were not the best entertainment we saw all season, but it was often a case of the result being more important than the way the team played.
There wasn’t a lot of ‘Squeeky Bum’ syndrome in the Town Ground camp. For me, the highlight of the last few games was the performance of goalkeeper Neil West.
He came into the side at a time when the goalkeeper’s jersey was causing a bit of concern. And although at the veteran stage of his career he made a number of saves which it would have been easy to make a token effort at rather than the magnificence he showed. The outstanding one being the way he rushed from his goal to thwart Lanzel Reid seven minutes from the end of the home game with Blackwell. No one would have blamed him had he stopped on his line.
The commitment shown by West was displayed throughout the team during the whole of the season. It was the minimum demanded by joint managers Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins.
How the Heanor management dealt with players during the course of the season sometimes raised eyebrows on the terraces – even the odd guarded comment – but nothing short of 100 per cent was allowed both on and off the pitch, and that is why they were crowned champions.
It is a feature which augers well for the future in whatever league the club will play next season.
Gresley, who won the East Midlands Counties League championship last season, were crowned back to back champions again this week of the Midland Alliance League.
Should Heanor be placed in this league next season they will look to emulate that performance, and history suggests through previous champions Kirby Muxloe and Dunkirk, that Heanor would most certainly not be out of place in this Step 5 league.
It is looking likely that the Midland Alliance will become their next resting place. The three previous champions of the East Midlands Counties have gone to this league and the likelihood is that the Football Association will want to follow suit.
Sometimes it is the relegated teams which have a great bearing on where the promoted clubs go. But, and here we will ignore for the time being the fact that it is rumoured that two or three teams might be leaving the Midland Alliance other than those in the relegation positions – those in the bottom three this season are Willenhall Town, who would surely return to the West Midlands (Regional) League, Highgate United, who came out of the Midland Combination, and Atherstone Town, whose natural relegation would be to the East Midlands Counties.
Thus it would appear straight forward enough. However, after a lifetime in the game at local level I have learned that nothing is every straight forward where the Football Association is concerned.
The spectacular, and unspectacular, parts of last season will appear in next week’s review of the season when all the league matches have been completed and everything starts to become a little more normal.
But meantime, facts have come to light following a great deal of research, that Nathan Benger’s 46 goals for the club last season have put him fourth in the list of all-time leading seasonal Heanor Town goalscorers, both behind and in amongst some of the most famous names ever to appear for the club:
1. Albert Walters – 1933/34, 51 goals
1. Glyn Stacey – 1988/89, 51 goals
2. Brian Fidler – 1965/66, 49 goals
3. Nathan Benger – 2011/12, 46 goals
4. Don Brown – 1957/58, 43 goals
5. Harry Bedford – 1934/35, 40 goals
As those who score centuries or take five wickets at Lords are so recognised, it would be nice if such goalscoring feats as above were recorded when the new hospitality lounge is built at Heanor Town.