After what has been arguably the best season in years for Penistone Church FC, we caught up with Mark Crossfield.
Education Officer at Reds in the Community, the charitable arm of Barnsley FC, Mark has also been connected to Penistone for much of his life, and as the season drew to a close at the weekend, we got his thoughts on all things 'Church'.
His years with the club began as a youngster, as he explained.
"For me personally, I played for the club in the junior section from U10s to U16s and then progressed into the non-league system. Representing Frickley Athletic, Stocksbridge Park Steels and Grantham Town, I made good friends with Adam Oldham (Former Reds player), also playing alongside another former Red in Sean McClare whilst at Grantham Town.
"Both myself and Adam Oldham took an offer from Ian Richards (Penistone manager) to join Penistone from Grantham Town. So I returned to the club 10 years ago now, when Ian Richards and his brother Duncan took control of the First Team at Penistone. At that point Penistone Church were a mid-table side in the Sheffield County Senior Premier Division, with local rivals Athersley Rec the dominant force in Barnsley, and Wombwell Main, Worsborough Bridge and Houghton Main the other strong Barnsley sides."
The fortunes of the club began to improve, with Church starting to compete with their local rivals on many fronts.
Crossfield believes the professionalism that the Richards brothers brough to the Memorial Ground was a key factor.
He told us: "Immediately, Ian assembled a squad full of local lads that had played with or knew both he and Duncan well. Ian set the tone early on, of how he wanted his side to play and the professionalism needed by the players to make it successful. Within a couple of seasons, Penistone had begun to develop a good reputation within the County Senior Division with the side competing every year for the County Senior Premiership title.
"We had some great seasons battling for the title with Athersley Rec, Shaw Lane, Houghton Main, Swinton Atheltic and Stocksbride Park Steels Reserves. The First Team started to perform strongly in all the cup competitions and league. After a number of seasons performing strongly in the league and cups the club applied to gain promotion to the NCEL Division.
"From gaining promotion to the NCEL Division, Ian and Duncan continued to push the team further by attracting more local players that had played at a higher level, players such as Andy Ring and Brett Lovell. They stabilised themselves in the NCEL Division 1 and then set a target of gaining promotion to the NCEL Prem. Penistone achieved this the following season. From gaining promotion to the Prem, Penistone Church have continued to push forwards, now setting a target of gaining promotion to the Evo Stick Division.
"Unfortunately, they narrowly missed out this season, finishing second in the NCEL Premier Division, with Champions, Worksop Town the only club gaining promotion. But it was a great season, and one to build upon."
The development of the club has been rapid, certainly in recent seasons.
Mark cites the introduction of more sides, including the juniors and particularly the reserves as further evidence of the club's growing reputation.
"Because the First Team has progressed it has allowed the 2nd team (reserves) to progress." Crossfield stated.
"Stephen Lenthall and Mark Wetton have run the Penistone Church second team who gained promotion to the County Senior Premiership, and they compete for the title yearly, just the same as the First Team did previously.
"The reserves have been in the final of the Sheffield and Hallamshire Association Cup for the previous three years in a row, winning the last two. The latest victory came this Saturday at Hillsborough, retaining the cup in a 5 – 0 victory against Denaby Main. The club has grown in reputation which has attracted more and more quality local players to the club.
"Jordan Barnett progressed into the reserve team and then into the First Team. Jordan was then signed by Burnley and is now an U23s player with the Reds. To have a reserve team competing at the same level as other club's first teams is testament to the work Penistone Church are doing on and off the pitch."
As well as junior sides, the club have also looked to get girls involved too, as Mark explained.
"Yes, the club continues to run a successful junior section and has also launched a girls/womens section within the club. The club's success is also down to the people behind-the-scenes who volunteer their time, week in, week out to allow all of this to happen.
"Club Secretary, Dave Hamphire has given his entire spare time to Penistone, he is actively involved in every section of the club, from the youngest junior team right through to the over 45s. There are many, many more invaluable people who give their time up at Penistone in order to be a part of a fantastic club."
Crossfield told us of his time at the club, where he has mixed playing, coaching and supporting alongside his work with RITC.
"I’m very proud to be associated with this fantastic club," he told us.
"Over the 10 years I have played with the First Team and then the reserves. I also coached one of the junior teams. I coached them from U10s right through to U18s, winning a league title along the way. Three of those players still play with the reserve team now and its been fantastic to coach these players and then play alongside them.
"The goalkeeper Joe Green progressed from this team to represent First Team and has since gone on to play for Newport County and Guiseley Athletic. The club has its share of famous fans, with local lads and former Reds Marc Roberts and John Stones often seen at the memorial ground cheering on their mates for both the First and 2nd team."
But it's time to call it a day for Mark now, in terms of playing that is. And what a way to bow out, as he took to the pitch one last time at the weekend, in the cup final.
"This weekend I played my last game for Penistone Church as a player. Winning the cup at Hillsborough was a great way to bow out of the game and finish on a high. I’m very proud that I have played a role alongside many others to get our community club to where it is currently operating.
"My connection with the club will always remain strong. The ground breaking Reds in the Community Shadow Scholarship* programme will be now working in partnership with Penistone Church. The Reds coaches and players will be involved in steering Penistone Church into the FA Youth Cup and also working with the club to offer pathways for the shadow scholars into semi professional football.
"It's great that Barnsley FC and RITC are working with our local clubs like this and I'm proud to be involved."
*The Shadow Scholars are in cup final action on Thursday 30th May when they face Carlisle United in the National Football Youth League final at Hillsborough. Kick off 1:30pm and entry is free.