Former Dons ace Neil Barron is facing a battle to keep Moorends Thorne Marauders in the Pennine Amateur League’s Championship in his first season in charge.
Managing a squad often decimated by work commitments and facing a division of high quality, Neil certainly has a job on his hands.
A valued member of Paul Cooke’s backroom team at the Dons, Neil first got involved with the Marauders in late September after being asked by a couple of ‘old heads’ if he fancied putting on a couple of coaching sessions.
“I said I’d be interested but didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. So I had a word with coach Martin Rowlands and he said he could do with a helping hand,” recalled Neil.
“We worked together for three or four weeks until Martin stepped down after a big defeat in a game at York and I ended up taking over.
“Although we are struggling, they are a really good set of lads and I’m enjoying it.
“There are some good players at the club.
“The problem is that a lot of them either work shifts or work away during the week and also work for themselves at weekends, so we can’t always field our strongest team..
“Another problem is that we lost the likes of Chris Allen and a few other players retired at the end of last season and would have been better dropping down a couple of divisions this season.
“As it is the club is struggling, in what is a tough division, and it is too much to ask many of the young players in the second team, which plays in Division Seven, to step in when the first team is short on numbers.
“The second team haven’t been doing too badly and the fact that veteran forward Ernie Lake, still going strong at 53, and one or two older players have been turning out, has helped give the side a bit of experience.
“But when we’ve had to call some of the second team up they are not up to standard at this stage of their careers.
“As a coach, you’ve always got to guard against throwing young players who are eager but still green in at the deep end.”
After playing at amateur level for Hexthorpe/ICI Barrons prior to joining the Dons – for whom he made several appearances in their ill-fated season in the top flight – in the early 90s, Neil is happy to be putting something back into grass roots sport.
Along with fellow coach Steve Sayles, he was involved in the now defunct Balby Dons Under-18s team last season.
Although disappointed how it all ended, Neil he still entertains hopes of a new Under-18 team being formed in the town.