Hemsworth Miners’ Welfare Manager, Wayne Benn, has always been a reliable, intelligent and constructive contributor to the Bootiful Game. Maltby’s Chairman, Wilf Race, once described him as a man “who doesn’t brag and doesn’t slag, whatever the result “–a fair assessment of Well’s gaffe, although on occasion, his glass has been a little below half-empty.
On the eve of our “HEM-ATH 360 –Action All Areas”, though, we wanted to take a closer look at the man in the hot seat at the NuBuilds-so our philanthropic editor Craig Kendall lent our intrepid reporter, Ellie Dalglish, a quid’s bus fare on the 197 Arriva Service –which must be repaid by next Tuesday –and told her to dig the dirt on our Wayne. What transpired was a brilliant conversation between our Ellie- a massive but unbiased Hemsworth supporter –and Mr Benn, which gave a fascinating insight into Wayne’s world-and we are delighted to reproduce their chat here; so read on, writes Ellie Dalglish for HEM-ATH 360-Action All Areas.
Ellie How long have you been the Manager of Hemsworth Miners Welfare?
Wayne In this spell I think it’s been about five years. I had a previous spell here for around twelve months and I left to manage Goole in the Evo-Stik.
Ellie Are these the only two teams you have coached?
Wayne I was Assistant Manager at Ossett Town. I was Assistant Manager at Guiseley. I was First Team Coach / Reserve Team Coach at Bradford Park Avenue.
My first job as a manager in my own right was actually at my local team, which is South Kirkby Colliery, who play a couple of teams below Hemsworth. I spent a season at South Kirkby Colliery, went to Hemsworth and ended up being there for a season or maybe eighteen months then I left to go to Goole, just obviously because it was a step up in terms of managing in the Evo-Stik, which is primarily where a lot of my experience was from my playing days.
I only left Goole actually because a new chairman came into the football club who wanted to bring in his own man. He was London-based and it was a bit of a weird situation. I left Goole feeling a little hard done by because we’d done a great job there. We’d kept them up in the first season that I was there, which was a really tough gig. When I went there, they had three points and it was already the end of October and it was a really tough act to keep them in the division. We managed to do that.
The following preseason we worked hard and brought a few young players in and got them playing really good stuff. I think when I left – around October- or November-time – I think we were about eighth in the division. Had the new chairman given us the opportunity with the increased budget he brought with him, I think we could have done good things with Goole.
That one left me with a little bit of a sour taste and probably made me even more determined to be successful. Within a couple of days of it becoming knowledge that I’d left Goole, Shaun Pugh asked me if I’d consider coming back to the club.
Hemsworth’s results hadn’t been going great and they were languishing seventeenth or eighteenth in Division One. Full of young lads, no playing budget and things were tough. Because I loved the football club so much I came back and the rest, as they say, is history!
Ellie When was promotion out of the NCEL Division One?
Wayne Promotion was two full seasons ago, making it the 2015-16 seasons. That was just an unreal season! We’d flirted with promotion the season before, actually. We finished third, literally three points off a promotion spot, which was probably as bigger an achievement than winning the division the following season. We had no playing budget at that time, when we finished third and only three points of the promotion places.
That was the stepping stone.
The following season, when we did get promotion, we, as a club and a committee, found a way to bring in a little bit of extra income and actually started to pay players for the first time in the club’s history. That decision proved to be the right decision because we ultimately gained promotion. I think we won the division by twelve points.
We were frightening that season! I’ve heard a lot of people say that we were probably one of the best Division One teams in the NCEL history in terms of the style of play, the points tally, and the goals scored… and it was just unreal! It was one of those seasons you don’t get very often. We were fantastic!
We had a great group of lads. Some have gone on to bigger and better things. Some of the lads who helped us get promotion left and have since come back to the football club. It was brilliant for everybody connected to Hemsworth Miners Welfare. Since then, for the last two seasons we’ve been in the Premier Division and we’ve gone from strength to strength, finishing ninth in our first season, which was really solid. Finishing sixth last year and obviously hoping to do better than that again this season.
All in all, throughout my time at the football club we’ve done nothing but improve season upon season. We’ve got stronger and stronger, not just on the pitch but we’re getting stronger off the pitch as well. It’s a cracking football club to be involved with!
Ellie With regards to recruitment, how do you actually choose your squad or put a squad together? I know you’ve said in the past you’ve struggled with salaries.
Wayne Unfortunately money still talks. We’re in an area that is saturated with non-league football clubs so we all tend to be interested in the same players. There are probably half a dozen clubs within a 6- to 8-mile radius and we’re all after similar players. Some of the clubs that are in and around our area pay good money so we’re probably not everyone’s first choice when it comes to where people chose to play their football.
What we try and do is to try and recruit within our means so we don’t pay what we cannot afford and never will!
We have to sell the club a different way. We have to talk about facilities, talk about things off the pitch, the fans, the playing surface, the extension that’s being built and we have to talk about the ambition as a football club, which we’ve never hidden from.
Our aim is to try and become an Evo-Stik club so it’s really tough. We try to identify people who we know. We try and do our homework.
The club is really fortunate that there’s not been one person whom we’ve brought to the football club in our time in charge that has been in it for the money. Money is very much secondary to our players. I’m sure a lot of them could go elsewhere for more money, without a doubt, but we’ve got a loyal bunch.
In my opinion we recruit pretty well and we bring in the right type of characters. Obviously we try to bring in good players and we constantly talk players into stepping down from the Evo-Stik to come and play for us, despite probably losing out financially and I think that’s down to the environment that we’ve created. I think it’s down to the club as a whole.
Peoples’ perception of Hemsworth Miners Welfare has changed over the last few years. People now see it as a really good club moving in the right direction and with good facilities. I think that clearly helps.
I won’t deny it’s really, really tough when we try and recruit but, above all, the type of manager that I am means I’m looking for players who have got ability, players who can handle a ball. I love players with pace and who are keen to attack, people who can be positive and that’s pretty much what we’ve been over the last five years. We’ve been a team who’ve played on the front foot, worked hard for each other, plenty of pace in the side and lads who have got great ability.
That’s literally how we try to set ourselves up to recruit and that’s pretty much been the formula that’s brought us the success that we’ve had.
Ellie You have two right-hand men: two Andy’s! Andy Hayward and Andy Hart.
Wayne Two great lads! Any manager will tell you that you can’t do this job without trustworthy people alongside you. I’ve got two of the best, in my opinion, in Andy Hayward and Andy Hart. I’ve known them both for a long, long time. I’ve known Andy Hart for well over twenty-five years. I’ve known Andy Hayward for the best part of twenty years. They’re great lads; great characters and they bring something different into the equation.
Chick [Andy Hayward] is one of the best non-league strikers around. It pains me to say it but he was voted in the top twenty all-time Evo-Stik players, which is probably deserved actually! I don’t know too many better strikers when he played. As you know, he’s always a laugh-a-minute; he’s always got a smile on his face. He keeps the dressing room on its toes. He’s heavily behind the team spirit and the banter in the dressing room and he does a brilliant job for me.
I’m the one who’s quite intense; he’s the joker who lightens the mood at the right time. He’s just a great kid! Again he has and input on match days. He does the warm ups, does the training but he’s somebody I trust implicitly and his contribution is never undervalued by me, that’s for sure!
I’m fortunate to have two good lads who are very, very loyal.
Ellie I think that comes across well: the banter and the atmosphere. For me, as a newcomer and someone who doesn’t know Hemsworth Miners Welfare very well, that is something really obvious when you walk into the clubhouse after a game. The lads appear to be genuinely happy and settled in what they’re doing.
Wayne Yes. Again, I’ve not known anybody really leave the football club for reasons that they’re unhappy because we create a good environment. When I say that, I’m not just talking about us as a management team. The fans, the committee… everybody plays their part in that and everybody makes you feel welcome. The atmosphere amongst the fans and the players is good.
There’s always good-natured banter after a victory; that’s easy! Everybody’s in a good mood then! Even after a defeat, you know, it’s not life or death. We’ll still have a bit of craic and we’ll still have a bit of banter and they all get on great. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t think it can be successful without good team spirit and togetherness and they’ve certainly got that. Chick’s a large part of that and he deserves a lot of credit for that side of things. That’s what we are!
I know I come across as hard to please… I am! I know I come across as demanding and I’m that as well but I love a laugh and a joke as much as anybody at the right times. Obviously there are times to be serious and times to have a laugh and a joke. It’s our hobby! We have to enjoy it. If it’s not enjoyable there’s no point in doing it, for any of us. We do try to grab that balance between times to be serious and time to get to work and literally every other time the changing room is always jovial. That’s how it should be!
I’ve got a great set of lads and, like I said, it’s a contribution from everybody and it keeps people here and it keeps everybody committed to the football club. The fans love a bit of craic and banter. They have banter with our own players. They have banter with away players. There’s always lots of chat and it’s great!
Ellie Talking about it being a hobby, how do you find a balance between your day job and your commitment to coaching Hemsworth?
Wayne I’m quite lucky, to be honest, that I’m in the job that I am. I’ve got a manager and people above that even who love their football. I regularly get people from my workplace coming to watch and support us. They’re into their football massively. I do do some football stuff while I’m at work, which is not necessarily what I should do! It is tough and I try and keep it out of work as much as I possibly can.
As every manager will tell you, you’re phones on 24/7 and sometimes things need dealing with quite quickly at certain times. There’s no denying that sometimes it can interfere slightly with your normal working day. For me, to be successful and to do things properly, football is a 24/7 job really. It’s tough and problem is getting that balance. It’s difficult.
You’ve also got to factor in your family as well, making sure they’re not neglected in any way. You obviously need time for them as well so it is really tough. There are days and there are weeks where you’re just exhausted from it but we do it because we love it and it doesn’t seem so much of a hardship when you love something.
You should give everything that you can to try and be the best that you can. That’s how I’ve been brought up, certainly in my footballing career and that’s the way it will always be until I’m not involved in football any more.
Ellie What qualifications or badges do you need to be able to manage at NCEL level?
Wayne I don’t think you need qualifications. The short answer is I don’t think you need them. I think more and more people are going about getting coaching badges and trying to get qualified up to a reasonable standard. Part of the problem is the cost of the coaching courses. They are so expensive!
At this level, coaching badges are… I’m not saying they’re a waste of time but you’ve got to remember you’re seeing your players twice a week for an hour and a half! There’s not so much time to be able to actually physically coach players. You’ve got to concentrate on getting people fit. You’ve got to make training sessions enjoyable and engaging for your players. Nobody wants to come and do laborious drills and set piece work for an hour and stuff like that. We do have to do it but moderately.
For me the coaching badges are more prevalent to the higher reaches of non-league football and obviously the professional game where they’re working with people, day in, day out. That’s when I think coaching badges come into their own. There is no right or wrong with it. Some of the best people I’ve worked for and played under have not had any badges and people who are qualified up to the hilt make good managers…
The other thing to think about is that coaching and managing are completely different these days. You can do all the coaching courses you want but they don’t teach you how to manage. That comes really through experience, I believe. Good experiences and bad experiences and learning from each one. I think for us guys at Step 5 I think it’s definitely a string to your bow but I’m not sure it’s that important to have at our standard of football.
Ellie With the injuries and squad shortages you’ve had recently, how do you miss pulling on your boots and taking to the pitch?
Wayne Bloody hell! Obviously you miss playing after playing for so long at a good standard. It’s a sad day when your body packs up on you! In my case, I had trouble with my knee and had to pack in quite early at thirty years old. It was devastating because you obviously want to keep playing for as long as you can. I definitely didn’t envisage stopping playing at thirty years old!
The coaching and managing is the next best thing and it keeps you involved. It’s still not the same; there’s nothing better than playing. I look across at my Assistant Manager and envy that he was able to play until he was forty-six years old, which is a phenomenal effort. I’m not saying I would have played anywhere near as long as that but I wouldn’t have minded having a few more years at it and probably found my way into coaching and managing a bit later down the road.
I can’t look back and have too many regrets. I’ve been on the coaching and managing side now for eleven or twelve years and I’ve loved every minute of it. I think it was a natural progression. I was always an organiser. I always was a good talker when I played. [And still is!] Always at the forefront of what needed doing and always a captain wherever I played. I think it was a bit of a natural progression for me but there’s nothing better…
I wish I was a few stones lighter and a couple of years younger then I still bloody would pull my boots on, I tell you! When you are a bit stretched you do look sometimes and think if I were a few years younger and a bit fitter I could still do a job but time catches up with you, unfortunately! I’m clever enough to leave it alone and not embarrass myself!
Ellie Now there’s a lesson I could do with learning!
Ellie Dalglish and the Bootiful Game would like to thank Wayne Benn for his generous contribution to this piece, and we look forward to seeing him –and everyone at Hemsworth Miners Welfare FC – tomorrow