“I’m not over last season yet,” words uttered by Poets Young Boys manager, Adam Stevenson, as the club reflects on a fantastic season in the Nottinghamshire Sunday League.
Let’s talk a little about last season, and a success story in the EMPAL Nottinghamshire Sunday League, in particular, Poets Young Boys, who not only pulled off the treble, but also had an enjoyable time in the All England Sunday Cup competition.
Winning the league is one thing, adding two cups to that, one of which is your County Cup, adds just that little bit more gloss to the story, and so, here at the Nottingham Sport, we recently caught up with Chairman, Murphy Lennon, and their Manager, Adam Stevenson, about all that happened last time around.
Affording some background on Poets Young Boys, Murphy began by saying that: “We started the team in 2016, as a group of friends who had a weekly kick-about up at Rushcliffe School.
“As the weeks went on we decided to start Poets Young Boys FC, using the name of the great Poets Corner whose vets we followed around the county.
“The club is stacked in history and success and we wanted to play a small part in carrying that on for the people and families who were involved from the start.
“In terms of success for us though, we have gained two promotions, one of those being as champions of the EMPAL Division 2.
“This year, this was the first time we had ever reached the later stages of any cup, so to win them both was brilliant.”
Any club, at any level of the beautiful game, would love to go into a new season with the remit of winning everything, it makes no difference if you’re a Liverpool, or a Poets Young Boys, but, for this Sunday League side, and as Murphy said, they’d never reached the latter stages of a cup competition before.
Winning the league, a possibility, adding just the one cup, some might say that was preposterous, a ridiculous idea, but, results can, sometimes, go in your favour, and that’s what happened during the 2021-22 season.
And more after two years of unsureness because of what was going on in the world around them.
“We were very lucky because, as a club, we are just one big group of friends, so during the pandemic, we still kept in touch with each other,” continued Murphy.
“A lot of the lads play Saturday football so they kept themselves fit, and when it was a case of starting again, we were ready.
“Unfortunately for us, at the end of the season during the pandemic, we lost out on the league title to a Priory Celtic side who had a few familiar faces in it.
“At the end of the previous season, our former manager, Jack Cyster, decided to step back from his role and take on a different job at the club.
“This allowed a few fresh ideas and players to come in with current manager Adam Stevenson, who was a former player for the Poets Corner and had also helped us out in the past.
“We decided that the season just finished was going to be the biggest one yet (who could really have predicted what was about to happen for them).
“The league title was the main aim, but, we also wanted good runs in the local cups and also getting through the first round of the National Cup.
“The rest was history; treble winners, and the last sixteen of the All England, whilst building up what can only be described as being a pretty special following.”
With Cyster having departed, and Stevenson now at the helm, he’s only been running the show for just over a year, you can figure not even could have predicted what was to come.
“I have been involved with Poets for many years as a player, when the Sunday morning men’s team was coming to an end, and then for the successful Poets Veterans,” pointed out the Poets Young Boys manager, Adam Stevenson.
“I was also signed on for the Poets Young Boys during this time and helped them out when needed, so you could say that Poets is in my blood!!!!
“I took over the managerial position at the club in March 2021, towards the end of the season, and oversaw what was a successful, six-match, unbeaten run.
“That alone gave me a good feeling about the 2021-22 season, and my remit, to myself really, was to win the league and have a darned good go at the cups.
“I knew that, with the talent the lads have, they had fallen short in my opinion in previous seasons.”
That talent, well, it blossomed, more as the season progressed, they far from letting the disappointment of an exit from the All England, derail them in the goals, the history, they were setting out to achieve.
Both the Nottinghamshire FA Senior Sunday Cup final, and the EMPAL League Cup final, came in quick succession, but the Poets were adamant that, now they were at the stage they’d found themselves, they weren’t going to let such an opportunity go begging.
They didn’t disappoint either, a George Harrison goal being the only one netted as the Poets defeated RHP Sports in the County Cup, then, in the League Cup, they ran riot, racking up a 7-1 win against Kimberley Miners Welfare, thanks to goals from Joe Brown, Lewis Wilcox, Jack Oldham (2), Luis Parkes, and Danny Neary (2).
“It’s been tough, but we are very lucky to have a great group of 23 players who all knew their role in this season,” beamed Murphy, upon winning the treble.
“We are also very lucky to have the support of Mark James at the Bootroom, Bobby Oldham Construction, and Sean Hickey, who have supported us this season in sponsorship.
“It really has made things easier on and off the pitch knowing we have these people behind us.
“In terms of the playing squad, yes, we knew we could win a trophy this season, but we have all really worked our socks off to get where we have, now though, it’s time to crack on now and go even bigger next year.
“We actually started the season, unfortunately, with a couple of bad injuries/illnesses, and a few family issues in the group, but we really used that to give ourselves a boost.
“We wanted to use that to give everyone something to cheer about when things weren’t going our way off the pitch.
“The obvious highs are the trophies, but the main thing that stands out for us is the support.
“We took over 200 people to all three of the All England games, ending in all-night parties at the Bootroom; great crowds to the finals, and also great crowds to all the big games along the way.
“It’s an unbelievable support for a Sunday League team, a one that some higher level, Saturday clubs in Nottingham, would be jealous of.”
That All England Sunday Cup, it’s famed around the country under Sunday League auspices.
Contested for as early as the 1960s, some really decent sides have brought home the silverware, including Scots Grey, beating highly-fancied Liverpool club, Oyster Martyrs, 4-3 at Anfield, back in 2009.
Reaching the last sixteen of the competition, it was to be a big achievement for Murphy Lennon, Adam Stevenson, and the Poets.
“We knew it was going to be tough but we made the most of it all,” Murphy added about the national competition.
“We were unfortunate to be drawn away from home three times as it would have been nice to take a crowd down to our home ground at Dunkirk FC, but that wasn’t to be.
“The first round was a comfortable win in Loughborough, the second being a much tougher game in Ibstock where we came from 2-0 down to win 4-2, before losing to Scawthorpe from Doncaster, who eventually lost to the winners; overall though, it was an unbelievable experience for us.
“(Against Scawthorpe) we were very unfortunate on the day to lose a number of players who were key in the first two rounds.
“We didn’t write ourselves off at this point as we knew we had the strength in depth.
“We were competitive in the game other than a mad ten minutes where we gave away a penalty, and there was a couple of questionable decisions from the officials and we just couldn’t get back into the game from that point, but it was still amazing to be part of that run.
“It was something we will never forget and can hopefully build on next year.”
“The first two matches were proper, old-fashioned cup ties, against really strong opposition,” continued Adam.
“Having played in the competition many years ago I knew what to expect, so I tried to get my experience over to the lads and it worked because they were tremendous.
“If I’m honest, even I didn’t think they could produce those performances and they were excellent during the first two games.
“We had over 200 fans supporting us as well which surprised me and became an experience I certainly won’t forget and I don’t think the lads will either.
“The downfall (against Scawthorpe) was those players out injured due to playing for their Saturday clubs!
“We also lost a key player in the warm-up so it was backs against the wall from the off; but, for that mad, ten minutes just before half time, I still believe we could have got something.
“I’m taking nothing away from the opposition though, they were very experienced and fully deserved the victory.
“It meant a lot to all of us as a club, and to the fans, to put the Poets name firmly back on the map and made our former players come and watch and say, ‘yeah, these are the real deal,’ that and I think it proved to the boys that they belong at the top level so the whole experience was amazing.”
Now though, what about next season? Can the Poets retain the three trophies they were successful in lifting this past season? And what about that All England, the pinnacle of Sunday League?
The bond in which they have at the club is a strong one, that much is evident, and with that, it flows over onto the football field.
“We’d like to retain all three local trophies, progress further in the All England, and hunt out some more competitions for us to test ourselves in,” stated Murphy, as the Poets look to continue their progression.
“Most importantly, we want to keep these lads together and continue dragging crowds down and make the memories that we know we can.”
“To be honest, next season is all about growth hopefully” concluded Adam.
“We want to attract new talent as a couple of players are going to play abroad I believe, so, they will need replacing.
“Then, hopefully we can carry on where we left off, which was winning, and make a darned good job at defending our titles.”
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*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @NottsFA Poets Young Boys celebrating their County Cup win in a memorable treble winning season.