New chairman sees huge potential in Frickley

Director Ryan McKnight welcomes chairman Stuart Highfield to Frickley Athletic.
Director Ryan McKnight welcomes chairman Stuart Highfield to Frickley Athletic.

New Frickley Athletic chairman Stuart Highfield believes the club can not only regain their place in the Evo-Stik Premier League but can go all the way back to the Football Conference level.

The experienced football man likes the look of the team on the pitch and believes that with the help of the South Elmsall area community the club has tremendous potential.

Highfield, who was a director at Doncaster Rovers during their rise from the Conference all the way up to the Football League Championship, took over the Frickley chairman role last week and is already getting stuck into looking into making improvements he feels can stand the Westfield Lane club in good stead for years to come.

He explained: “The playing side seems to be sorting itself out, but there’s a few off the field things we can improve.

“It’s just a little bit of structure, looking at how we can involve the local community and schools. Now the new changing rooms are available and there’s a small function room we’d like to get the community involved in that as well.

“We’ll see if we can improve attendances and just move things on so that we can eventually even get Conference status.

“I think my experience at Doncaster will help, without a shadow of a doubt. And I’ve got a football background.

“I’m on the Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA, I’m a County FA disciplinary chairman – football has been my life for years and years.

“I started off as a teenager at Belper, down in Derbyshire – that was where I was born and bred – before coming to university up here when I starting refereeing. That’s when I first came to Frickley, with Sheffield cup games there, Northern Prem and the Gola League. It was a favourite place to go and you always got looked after, friendly as anything.

“It’s a family club and it just needs that to be developed into a community club, that’s what we did at Doncaster.

“I’ve been connected with Doncaster Rovers for a number of years and been on the board. I came back with John Ryan nearly 20 years ago and we moved the club forward.

“We built Doncaster. I was chairman of the foundation, which was just a bag of balls, but now we’ve got 160-odd full-time students down there doing a lot of work for the youth. That’s what we should be doing in the South Elmsall area.

“It seems to be a little bit of a forgotten area,between Doncaster and Wakefield. There’s huge potential here.”

Highfield stressed that he does not intend to get involved on the playing side, leaving on the field affairs to manager Spencer Fearn, someone he is impressed with.

He said: “It’s changed round completely on the field and everything is a lot more positive.

“Spencer’s doing a cracking job. He knows what it’s all about and I’m not going to interfere with that side.

“He’s brought in good people around him and hopefully I can add to that team as part of the team off the field. On the administration side and community side I’m sure there’s a lot I can offer.

“Promotion would be very. very nice, but it might be that we have to go up through the play-offs because there’s a couple of teams right up at the top where money doesn’t seem to mean an awful lot. It’s being thrown at them like there’s no tomorrow.

“Frickley are sensible in their spending, but they have been bringing in quality players and have got a good side, playing football that’s good to watch.

“Hopefully we might go up as champions, but more realistically it would be play-offs. I see no reason why not and get back to at least stabilising in the Premier Division.”

Stuart has plenty of first hand knowledge of the team, having been to Westfield Lane on a number of times this season.

He added: “I’ve seen them six or seven times this season and it’s a lot better quality of football, discipline-wise as well. Spencer’s instilled values to the players. Winning means a lot more now.

“They are also playing three up front so you’re going to get goals. The spine’s good as well, there’s a good goalkeeper, a good centre-half and the lads who play up front, everyone else fits round it and all the ingredients are there for the team to do well.

“I’m absolutely sure that Frickley can move up and go on to a higher league. The ground needs a little bit of attention, but nothing major. The new changing rooms help and there’s a bit of work to finish off. It’s getting the local people involved, getting them down there to see what’s going off.”