ATHERSLEY Rec are hoping to become a respected team in the NCEL Division One again after being given a reprieve from relegation despite finishing bottom last season.

The Penguins were relegated from the Premier League last year, having survived in previous campaigns which were cancelled by Covid-19, but were spared a second successive demotion this year to the County Senior League following a restructure.

Manager Jimmy Whitehead said: “We want to stay up on our own merit.

“Last year we fell short but 30 points would have kept us out of the bottom three in the six previous years.

“I think we lost 27 points from losing positions.

“We went down from the Premier League and lost most of the team then signed a lot and, after three months, they had all left so we rebuilt again.

“But the team we ended the season with was much better.

“We know we’re not going from bottom to suddenly the play-offs or even the top ten. We don’t pay money like most teams do. The goal is to stop us being a losing club like we have been for three years.

“We want to be a respected team again and for teams to fear coming to Sheerien Park again.

“Getting a positive start would lift the place, make the players believe and it would be nice to look at the table and not be at the bottom.

“We don’t want to speak about last year too much, it’s about what we do going forward.”

Three teams are due to go down this season and Rec are determined not to be one of them.

“We’ve kept most of our players from last season.

“It’s the silly season when clubs get in contact with our players and some of them want to move on to higher clubs.

“We’ve been firm with them and told them to commit to us or move on and that’s worked for us in most cases.

“We have changed our style.

“We were quite direct last season and we’re trying to play a bit more football now.

“The fixture list to start with doesn’t look too bad but it’s hard to tell until you start.”

Rec will face Barnsley neighbours Worsbrough Bridge and Wombwell Town.

“We have Worsbrough in our third game of the season, Wombwell Town are coming to us on Boxing Day.

“I don’t have a rivalry with anyone and it doesn’t interest me.

“Some teams seem to have more of a rivalry with us than we have with them. But we want to win every game.”

Athersley are due to host Glasshoughton Welfare tomorrow then visit Brigg Town on Wednesday.