It's bye bye to the wonderful Welfare - and hello to Askern Villa!

Central Midlands League Supreme Champions, 2007/08 ALL-CONQUERING Askern Welfare FC have dumped the blues... and they're about to break out the claret!

Welfare swept away all opposition, to win the Central Midlands League Supreme Division by TEN points.

And they're now set to kick off in a new league, with a Premiership name change... to ASKERN VILLA!

But they're not planning to change their famous black and white stripes for claret and blue.

Welfare rounded off their Central Midlands experience with 96 points, to take the title.

The table-toppers will now be lining up against teams from across the country including Tadcaster Albion and Leeds Met Carnegie, after stepping up to Division One of the Northern Counties East league.

A superb 2007-08 season saw the Welfare win 32, losing just three times and scoring an impressive 100 goals, while conceding just 25.

To add to that, the side are once more the Doncaster Challenge Cup winners – for the third year on the bounce.

Secretary Ian Tallentire said: "We've had a great season and we even had 29 clean sheets altogether.

"We led pretty much all the way throughout the campaign, except for having a little blip where we were second-placed for two games."

The Welfare were first formed in 1924 and developed a reserves side 30 years later. They kicked-off in the Doncaster Red Triangle League before World War II, then progressed into the Doncaster Senior League.

In 1991/92, they finished runners-up in the premiership title race, then joined the Central Midlands League.

After being relegated from the Supreme division, they bounced back from the premiership at the first attempt in 2005/06, with their management dream team of Brian Johnston and assistant John Little.

Since then, the side has enjoyed trophy success for the last four years on the trot.

Mr Tallentire added: "This season we just went out to win everything, and take the side into the North East Counties league for the first time in the club's history".

Aside from adding the Supreme division championship to the roll of honour, Welfare captured the Doncaster Challenge Cup again – for the THIRD successive season, and the TENTH time in all.

Now the club is also in talks with the North Counties East League to change their name to Askern Villa FC.

The club is hoping this new moniker could produce the same form as their Premiership counterparts, Aston Villa.

And manager Mr Johnston revealed: "We're only going back to the times when this club was first named Askern Villa.

"Our new chairman has lots of ideas for this club – and the first is to change our name and then go for big things.

"It's an exciting time for us, and we're thankful for all the things ex-chairman Bob Redhead has done here.

"People used to laugh at him when he said that in 10 years we'd be challenging in the Unibond leagues.

"But thanks to the legacy he has left the new chairman, these things are entirely possible and we're extremely determined to make it


Mr Johnston revealed that the club is now set on improving the Welfare ground – way beyond what is required for the new league.

He said: "We're looking at new stands and improving the stadium to get it up to scratch... not just for the Northern Counties East standards, but beyond that.

"The pitch is by far one of the best pitches in the Doncaster area - it's like a carpet to play on."

He added: "We've had a brilliant year, and all the credit must go to the players.

"They're a fantastic bunch and in my 30 years of coaching they are probably the best set of lads I've ever managed.

"There's not a bad one amongst them.

"Most have come from league clubs from the age of 16 after being released, and so have maintained good habits such as training hard and working with each other.

"You don't have to say much to them – this lot want to win big things."

Now all he needs to do is unearth the next Gareth Barry or Ashley Young, in time for the start of Askern Villa's new campaign!

Doncaster Challenge Cup winners, 2007/08

WITH an emphatic 3-1 win over local rivals Thorne Town, Askern Welfare retained the Challenge Cup for a third successive year.

They saw off a nail-biting final at Brodsworth, thanks to strikes from Lee Wilkinson, Daniel Maudslay and Gary Evans.

Thorne's Gavin Redfearn's consolation was too little, too late, as a rampant Askern side capitalised to make sure they lifted the cup for the third year on the bounce.

Askern were on the black foot in the first 10 minutes, when the black and whites' Craig Fisher cleared an effort which cannoned off the bar.

But they soon countered a first-class stop from Thorne keeper Neil Murray to deny a bullet header from Michael Bunn. Thorne had another effort cleared off the line after Wilkinson's opener.

However Maudslay fired home to give Town an uphill task.

Redfearn was tireless all game for Thorne and he got his reward on the hour, by stabbing the ball past Liam Copley and give the game a thrilling finish.

Gary Evans made sure the cup stayed with Askern, after a couple of penetrating efforts before, led to him unleashing a 35-yard thunderbolt screaming into the net in the last four minutes, for 3-1.

After retaining the cup for the third year on the bounce, Supreme division champions Askern are currently enjoying some time off, before getting back into gruelling pre-season training, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, on the Manor Way pitches, to prepare them for the season ahead.

Manager Brian Johnston said: "The only disappointment we suffered during the campaign was losing out to a lower league side in the league cup quarter finals.

"We just couldn't put the ball away; their 'keeper had a blinder... but they ended up winning the cup, so it just shows how determined a side

they were."

Stars behind a great season

Everyone's been a hero, in the latest, greatest Welfare campaign. But in a super season, three players in particular stood out.

Captain Mark Vickerage began playing football at the age of 11 at Sunday league level, before being scouted by Brodsworth Welfare in the North East Counties League.

He played there for two years and then signed for Unibond Premiership side Bradford Park Avenue, playing in what he says is a "memorable FA Cup run" before transferring to Frickley Athletic.

In his two seasons with Athletic, he picked up a winners' medal in

the Sheffield Cup, gracing the Hillsborough turf.

From there, Mark was at pains to decide his next move, after turning down offers from a host of Unibond outfits. Thankfully, his old Frickley boss, Brian Johnston, rang.

Mark said: "He had ambitions to get to the NCE league and had players in mind to bring to the club, that I had played with at Under 19 level.

"I wanted to sign straight away, I wasn't interested in money or anything like that because I knew we could win things with Brian."

The skipper duly took Welfare to promotion from Central Midlands Premiership in his first season, and the team then finished fourth in the Supreme division.

This time, in their second season, the black and whites were crowned champions – with a record tally of points, scoring 100 goals and winning the challenge cup for the third year running!

Mark thinks there is still plenty more to come from the Askern outfit, adding: "It has been a great season for the club, and for me personally.

"Brian's hard work has certainly paid off. Next season we'll be playing in the Northern Counties East League.

"It's a new challenge, but one we are definitely ready for.

"I think I am the third oldest player at 24 here, so what we have achieved already is fantastic."

Top scorer Tom McLaughlin, 21, was an ex-Sheffield United and Rotherham schoolboy before joining the Johnston army at Frickley Athletic. He soon followed his coach over to Askern because "he's a great manager".

After winning promotion to the Supreme Division, Tom flew to America on a football scholarship, before returning to the Welfare.

A groin tear ruled him out of Askern's last eight games of this season as Welfare did the double.

Nonetheless, he ended with 23 league goals in 26 games, plus four cup strikes.

He said: "It is a great personal achievement, but one that would not have been possible without this team around me.

"They are brilliant players and mates. I'm still injured, but Bri and the club are helping me with physio. I need to be back for next season and I'm looking forward to the step up."

Goalkeeper Liam Copley has been dubbed "the Cat", by dint of his acrobatic saves.

Liam joined Askern after a spell at North Counties East's Parkgate FC two seasons ago.

After a pre-season with the black and whites, the 23-year-old, knew he wanted to stay at Manor Way.

With a superb 24 clean sheets, the shot-stopper has high ambitions for the club and trophy cabinet.

He said: "Winning the league was excellent for the team and I was proud to have achieved 24 clean sheets within this season.

"We are all around the same age, so after the game we make plans for the night.

"Having a laugh and a joke is what makes us click as a team."

And he warned opponents: "Next season will not be a season for consolidation... we want the league, the cup and any other competition we're playing in."