With the introduction of Wetherby Athletic into the ninth tier of English football, it’s about time to introduce Wetherby Athletic to the reader.
Wetherby Athletic are based in the market town of Wetherby within the borough of the City of Leeds. The town sits on the border between West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire, with the town of Harrogate only a fifteen minute drive away from Wetherby.
Wetherby Athletic was formed as a club in 1949, during a time when the town had a miniscule population to what it has today. The club earned its nickname of The Salmons
due to the local fishing trade’s involvement in the market town’s economy in the past. With the club coming straight out of Sunday League football, the club’s professional status stands at an amateur level in line with most of the league’s competitors.
As for the division that Wetherby Athletic will play in, they are registered to the ninth tier in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division. With a predicted finishing position of 15th upon Wetherby’s entrance into the division, it is Goole and Bridlington Town that look the favourites for this years title. In this particular league, Wetherby’s old rivals Knaresborough and Yorkshire Amateur are also predicted for 10th placed and 19th placed finishes respectively.
In charge of administration is the mother of the Milne family, Eileen. She sits at the head of the board along with her husband, Harold Milne and local benefactor Alan Kitchener. In charge of first-team affairs is Mark Milne, who played for the club up until ankle surgery ruled him out of playing competitive football. However, Mark has always been the manager of the club throughout his time there. Also involved in the backroom staff is a long-time friend of Mark Milne’s, Kenny Chapman who will be his assistant manager. Former Ossett Town and Frickley goalkeeper Jon Hood joins as a goalkeeping coach and former Leeds United midfielder and friend of Mark Milne, Paul Green joins as a coach.
The club plays their fixtures at Old Boston Road, away from the youth sides who play at Wetherby Recreational Ground on Sunday mornings and afternoons. The ground can hold up to 1,000 people, but is unlikely to do so despite crowds numbering in hundreds previously.
Moving onto the squad, we begin with going through the goalkeepers.
The undisputed first-choice goalkeeper at Wetherby is Tony Holt - a player at the club under Mark Milne for many years during the Sunday League days. The 29-year-old was born in Leeds in 1990 and knew the manager as a result of going to the same school as him as a teenager. A bricklayer during the week, Holt is known as an eccentric between the sticks (and also in the pub!).
Providing backup to Holt in goal is former Guiseley academy goalkeeper Fletch Paley. Ten years younger than his superior, Paley was advised to join the club recently through a chat with Wetherby striker Henry Jacobs.
Now we will take a look at the defence, going from right-back to left-back.
Tom Godden signed up for Wetherby due to the clubs close relationship with Leeds United, with the Championship side’s academy playing at Thorp Arch - just a short walk across the bridge over the River Wharfe. The 20-year-old played in the Leeds academy from the age of 12, but was released after the club released him as his scholarship came to an end. Milne’s backup right-back is Leeds-born James Blair. The 29-year-old is much more experienced than Godden in the lower divisions, having played in the North West for Flixton and Winsford before a four-year spell at Mossley until 2018.
George Proctor signs for Wetherby after being turned away from Barnsley following a three-year spell in the club’s academy. The 21-year-old was released in 2017 and has not played football since, having got a job in credit instead. Proctor will act as a backup player for Wetherby. The first-team player Paddy Miller is perhaps one of the most experienced players in the team with the 28-year-old beginning his career at Guiseley. The centre-back has played all over Yorkshire and the North-West between the 6th and 8th tier of the game, even earning him a short spell at Bradford Park Avenue.
The star centre-backs this year have to be Sean Garfield and Jovanni Sterling, though. Jovanni Sterling - like Tom Godden - came through the Leeds United ranks before being released. However, the 20-year-old was picked up by Rotherham United just a season after, and despite not playing in a first-team fixture for The Millers, he proved his worth to be picked up by another Football League academy. Sean Garfield has been a player at Wetherby for some years now and has been made vice-captain by Mark Milne. He grew up on the council estates of Belle Isle in Leeds, playing rough football despite having great talent. Garfield has given up his job as a customer service officer at Sky Bet to put his effort into helping Mark Milne out with Wetherby Athletic.
The starting left-back for Wetherby will be Shaqeel Khan, who joined Milne’s Wetherby Athletic last season during their final season in Sunday League football as a result of working alongside Mark Milne as a legal administrator at Milne’s everyday job. 19-year-old Jordan Baldwin will form a backup option for Khan at left-back with previous experience at Halifax’s academy and playing first-team football for Brighouse in the Northern Premier League Division One.
Making up the defensive midfield role will be the captain, Mike Jackman. The 31-year-old is a highly respected figure in the squad after getting to know Mark Milne through council work. He is much admired after playing for Wetherby before being diagnosed with cancer four years ago, before coming back to play football and be just as good as he left. He will be the starting defensive midfielder. Former Preston North End academy player Kian Smart joins the club as a backup to Jackman.
In the centre of midfield, Wetherby stalwart Scott Scholes makes his way into the team. His lack of professionalism is forgiven due to his fantastic passing and physical power in the middle. Joining him in the centre will likely be new recruit Alfie Raw, who makes his way back into football having been released by Huddersfield in 2017.
As backup for Scholes and Raw, Caldon Henson will be making his way back into the lower leagues for Wetherby. Born in Leeds, Henson played for Wakefield, Brighouse and Droylsden whilst keeping his job as a male underwear model - which has been the butt of many jokes already by the Wetherby players. 35-year-old Chris Walton also joins the club as a result of knowing Mark Milne’s father-in-law who often went to see Farsley Celtic during his time there.
On the right-wing, new recruit Craig Herd will likely be the regular starter. Only 18 years old, Mark Milne has got to know Craig’s father as he has gotten older and has taken him on following short-lived spells at both Harrogate Town and Wetherby’s divisional rivals Knaresborough Town. Former Bradford City academy player Adam Baker also joins the club after a long spell at Tadcaster Albion before his eventual release as Tadcaster signed former Leeds prospect Henry Rollinson.
On the left is Mark Milne’s younger brother, Karl Milne. The 24-year-old has been central in every aspect of the Milne’s life and it is fortunate that Karl just happened to be a fantastic winger to become a starter on the left-wing. He is supported by former Wakefield and Droylsden winger Shaquille Clarke who will provide a backup option for Mark Milne.
With Craig Herd providing an extra option if necessary up-front, Wetherby Athletic only have two out-and-out strikers.
Henry Jacobs is a close family friend of Mark Milne and excelled in the Leeds United academy during his youth before being released in 2016. Since then, Jacobs has been extraordinary in Sunday League football for years, outscoring his appearance statistics in every season. He will be a tough man to be displaced. However, Jacobs has actually convinced his old strike partner at Leeds United academy, Ryan Ferguson to join him at Wetherby Athletic. It is assumed that Jacobs will remain the main striker, but Ferguson could push his way into the side or even form a partnership should Mark Milne wish to play that way.
I see you’re getting into the role of Scott
The recruitment has basically been a ‘he’s mates with a good player, get him in’ drive
At last, sorted out with a wife, a child and now the final jigsaw - Wetherby Athletic getting into the system.
Indeed it does! It’s a long way up there!