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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

AFC Emley

The Welfare Ground, Upper Lane, Emley, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire HD8 9RE
Telephone: 01924 849329
Nickname: The Pewits
Northern Counties East League

Note AFC Emley is a new club, formed only in 2005 but, as any Non League enthusiast will be aware, the club’s origins date from 1903, as Emley Clarence FC. Prior to the Great War the club’s name was changed to Emley Juniors and later, to Emley United.

Rugby had been played at the Welfare Ground since the 19th Century and it is probable that the newly formed Football Club also played there, taking over when the Rugby Club was disbanded in 1902. There were however, no facilities whatsoever; even pitch markings were made by turning over narrow trenches on the pitch to create a brown soil line. The fact that all the players were villagers meant they could change and wash at home; whilst the club’s HQ were the Green Dragon or White Horse pubs.

During the Great War (1914-18) the club played at Albert Hills, an old cricket ground formerly used by the Wesleyan Chapel but the end of hostilities saw this incarnation of the club fold as many players defected to a new Emley Juniors FC. The ‘new’ Juniors club changed its name in 1932 to become Emley AFC and continued to play on different fields, using the old Chapel House Farm Field, and also Out Lane, paying £12 pa for the latter. Changing rooms however, remained at the White Horse, half a mile away!

In August 1957 the club finally moved back to the Welfare Ground in the village. Thankfully it was now better appointed than during the club’s previous tenure and boasted a pavilion and improved facilities. In 1982 became founder members of the Northern Counties East League, having won the Yorkshire League on four occasions. Season 1987-88 saw the club reach the final of the FA Vase, only to lose to another club that had a troubled future ahead of them: Colne Dynamos (by coincidence the following season saw a re-match in the 2nd round, in which they gained their revenge). However, it was in the FA Cup that the club’s name reached a national audience, reaching the 3rd Round before losing narrowly to West Ham United in 1997-98.

By that time the club was competing in the Premier Division of Northern Premier League, despite the three-sided nature of the Welfare Ground resulting in it increasingly being questioned with regards its suitability for the club’s now elevated position in the Non League Pyramid. In the face of increasingly stringent grading regulations and unable to improve the facilities, in 2002 Emley brokered a deal to groundshare the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats RLFC ground at Belle Vue. The move also saw the club change its name to Wakefield & Emley FC, effectively alienating much of the its orginal fanbase in the village.

The club changed its name once again in the 2004-05 season, this time to Wakefield-Emley FC. However, in the close season Northern Counties East League disbanded its Reserve Division. Up until this time the Wakefield-Emley Reserve team had continued in that Division, with matches played at the old Welfare Ground. With the loss of the league, some former officials of the club decided to form a new club: AFC Emley.

As there was now a new club in Emley, the Wakefield-Emley Board decided to drop the name "Emley" and renamed the club Wakefield FC. The club also changed colours and moved to College Grove in Wakefield, becoming fully a Wakefield club. AFC Emley has effectively returned to its roots, and retained the traditional claret and blue colours that made it famous. DB