East Midlands Counties League
Published 15th April 2012
....of a memorable season, it was just enough to spark off the celebration of winning the East Midlands Counties League championship.
Immediately following the conclusion of the game league vice-chairman David Holland presented Heanor captain Brett Peel with the championship trophy and the players with their souvenirs of a magnificent season.
Joint-manager Glenn Kirkwood said: “We won the league on Monday against Borrowash Victoria. The Blackwell game was about getting over the finishing line. The game was more about getting the result than the way we played.”
And Craig Hopkins spoke for both Kirkwood and himself when he said: “This has been my greatest achievement in football and to do it with Glenn and the rest of the management team and the current set of players has been simply unbelievable.”
Undoubtedly, the results which were mostly responsible for bringing the first league championship to Heanor for fifteen years were the six points taken off title rivals Borrowash Victoria and Oadby Town.
These games were the highlight of the season and both home and away brought attendances which will need to become the norm for next season if the club are to survive at Step 5.
The downside to the season was obviously the two visits to Radford’s Selhurst Street enclosure. The first, on the opening day of the season, brought a surprise 3-2 defeat, and the second last month saw the team exit the League Cup at the semi-final stage when the Lions could have become the first side to win the double.
Where Heanor might be playing next season is a more difficult question to answer.
As previously reported, the FA’s Leagues Committee are looking to reduce the number of leagues at Step 5 from fourteen to twelve for the 2013/14 season, and that will, no doubt, have some bearing on promotions this season.
In addition, the two clubs relegated from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division South are both from Leicestershire – Quorn and Shepshed Dynamo – and they will want a place in the Baker Joiner Midland Alliance - Heanor’s first choice league for next season.
There are rumours that some of the long distance teams in the Midland Alliance may also be on the move with Westfields from Hereford and Ellesmere Rangers from the Shrewsbury area amongst them. This being so, and Heanor being awarded a promotion place in the Alliance would be extremely acceptable to the club as it would leave only one distance game at Bridgnorth Town.
Whilst the championship and the club’s first ever promotion are the most important thing on the immediate horizon at the moment rather than next season, it is fitting to pay tribute to the players who have brought about this momentous occasion for the club and its loyal supporters.
A total of forty-eight players have been used this season with Nico Degirolamo being the only ever present - Nathan Benger, who will surely end the season as the league’s leading goalscorer, missing only one game, and skipper Brett Peel losing out on five starts.
The 116 league goals scored is another superb landmark, and whilst forty-four goals conceded is rather a lot perhaps for a championship winning side compared to the twenty-seven of Oadby Town and the twenty-nine of Borrowash Victoria, six of those goals conceded by Oadby and five by Borrowash were inflicted by the title winning Lions.
The entertainment has been first class. But then again, when Glenn Kirkwood and Craig Hopkins joined the club in 2009 with ambitions of winning the league in three seasons, it was always going to be, and has been, entertaining in the course of realising their ambitions.
Management, the coaching of James Whitehead and David Hoole’s expert experience at getting, and keeping, players fit quicker, the brilliant support the club has received both home and away throughout the season, and the fun everyone has made the 2011/12 season a most memorable one for everyone.