THE HISTORY OF THE EAST MIDLANDS COUNTIES LEAGUE
The East Midland Counties football league was created in 2008 following the need for affordable football in the pyramid system of football for clubs from Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. Behind the idea where two influential figures, Robert Holmes and Frank Harwood.
Robert, a key administrator in the Leicestershire football scene and Frank a committed leader of the Central Midlands league based in Derbyshire but covering Notts. Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire.
Following discussions with the FA, the new league was created for season 2008/2009 and comprised of 18 clubs. 8 each from the Leicester Senior league and Central Midlands league and 2 from the North East Counties league.
Graham St. Prims FC
Heanor Town FC
Gedling Town FC
Greenwood Meadows FC
Barrow Town FC
Bardon Hill Sports
Hinckley Downs FC
Holwell Sports FC
Ibstock Welfare FC
Kirby Muxloe FC
St. Andrews FC
And so, a new Step 6 league was formed with promotion to either the Midland Football Alliance or the North Eastern Counties league. Kirby Muxloe FC emerged as champions, three points clear of Borrowash Victoria AFC and moved to the Midland Football Alliance later to be called the Midland football league after and alliance with the Midland Combination. Borrowash however became the winners of the League cup defeating Holbrook MWFC to overcome the disappointment of becoming league runners up.
No clubs were relegated but Radcliffe OFC (Promoted from CMFL), Anstey Nomads (Promoted from LSL) and Gresley FC (A re-formed Gresley Rovers FC club following relegation from the Southern League) joined to bring the numbers up to 20.
Dunkirk FC finished 6 points clear of Gresley FC to allow a first promotion to the MFL, but they could not celebrate a league and cup double after Gedling Town won 2 – 1 in extra time.
Thurnby Nirvana FC from the LSL took the place of Dunkirk FC and following the disappointment of the previous season Gresley FC began their climb back up the pyramid when they edged out Borrowash VAFC by 2 points to become champions. Thurnby enjoyed a great first season by defeating renamed Holbrook Sports 4 – 2 in the league cup at Gresley’s Moat ground.
Hinckley and Gedling Town left the league and 2 new sides entered, Oadby and Blaby and Whetstone. There was more heartache for Borrowash as Heanor Town pipped them to the title but they did ease the pain again with a 1 – 0 league cup defeat of Radcliffe OFC.
Changes again as Heanor Town joined the MFL, Oadby laterally moved to the UCL and Blackwell MWFC folded. We saw 3 new clubs join Basford United, Aylestone Park and Lutterworth Athletic.
It would be a brief stay for Basford who were on a rapid rise up the pyramid system, they made light work of the championship ending 11 points clear of runners up Barrow Town. Basford also made it a double with a 2 – 0 league cup final win over Graham St. Prims FC.
This close season changes included Ellistown and Ibstock United joining together to form Ellistown United, Lutterworth Athletic were laterally moved to the UCL and Arnold Town slid down the pyramid and were placed with the EMCL along with another fallen angel Sutton Town FC. Stapenhill also became a new club, and had a tremendous first year finishing runners up to Thurnby Nirvana FC The amalgamation of Ellistown also proved a success with the new `United’ finishing third.
This season saw the best ever performance by an EMCL club in the FA Vase, when St. Andrews lost in a semi-final against West Auckland FC. Following a goalless first leg the Saints scored first but then fell to 2 late set piece goals from the visitors in front of 1600 spectators.
The pain of losing the final the previous season pushed Graham St. Prims to triumph 4 – 2 over Sutton Town in the Jenkins and Jenkins league cup.
Sutton Town had played their last game in that final as they folded due to ground issues. South Normanton Athletic were given the nod over Clifton Allwhites to be promoted and they were joined by Kimberley MWFC and Ashby Ivanhoe.
The race for the championship was the closest ever finish for two clubs Bardon Hill and St. Andrews finishing on 82 points each with the former gaining the title on goal difference.
In the league cup South Normanton and Radcliffe OFC finished 1 – 1 after 2 hours of normal play with the Derbyshire club lifting the trophy after a 5 – 4 penalty shoot out.
Bardon Hill progressed to the Midland League and Mickleover Royals joined after promotion from the CMFL. However, they never got off the ground and folded due to issues over ground rent.
St. Andrews finally secured success when they edged out Radford to win the championship and make a move to the UCL.
South Normanton Athletic were back in the final of the league cup but could not break down a resolute Aylestone Park team who lifted the trophy after a 2 – 1 win.
Three new clubs swelled the numbers to 22 with Dunkirk also returning from the MFL. Birstall promoted from LSL, Belper United from CMFL and West Bridgford from the Notts Senior League. And what an impression they made finishing champions ahead of South Normanton Athletic FC.
The champions declined promotion though allowing Athletic to join the MFL. In the league cup Dunkirk were to strong for Ashby Ivanhoe running out 2 – 1 winners.
Three out and three in. Clifton as champions from the CMFL, Selston as champions of the NSL and Teversal through lateral movement. Out went Greenwood Meadows, Ellistown United and South Normanton promoted to MFL. There was a late withdrawal though as Blaby and Whetstone resigned.
The season became a fierce battle between Dunkirk, Anstey Nomads and Teversal, Dunkirk and Anstey accumulating 89 points with Teversal on 87, but Dunkirk’s superior goal difference meant a quick return to the Midland League.
In the league cup Radford rubbed salt into the wounds of Anstey Nomads with a 6 – 0 demolition on the all-weather pitch at Eastwood.
Wholesale changes were made to the league during the close season as the FA began preparations for a restructuring of the non-league game. Clubs leaving included Radcliffe Olympic FC who dropped back to the NSL, Holbrook Sports who moved back to the CMFL, Dunkirk moved upwards again to the MFL. Holwell Sports, Aylestone Park, Birstall United and Anstey Nomads were laterally moved to the UCL at step 6. Stapenhill were moved to the MFL at Step 6. Clipstone FC and Rainworth MWFC moved sideways from the NCEL. Heanor Town dropped down from the MFL. Eastwood Community joined as champions of the CMFL with Sherwood Colliery also being allowed to move due to Holbrook Sports last minute resignation. Ingles FC joined as champions of the LSL and Newark Flowserve took their place after winning the championship of the NSL.
It turned into a two way battle for the ex-Notts clubs in pursuit of the championship and the two promotion places agreed by the FA for this season. In the end, Selston kept ahead of Newark with both gaining entry into the MFL.
Newark rounded off the season with a 4 -1 penalty shoot out over Clifton after the teams finished goalless after extra time.
This season ended in being declared null and void due to the COVID pandemic. The restructuring by the FA had continued at the start of the season with the league finally relegating a team from its league when Arnold Town were banished to the CMFL. Dunkirk once again returned from the MFL following relegation. More sideways movement saw Ashby Ivanhoe FC join the MFL at step 6 and Shirebrook and Bolsover Town, who both shared the ground, move from the NCEL. Hucknall Town joined as champions of the CMFL South. The league however operated with 19 clubs as Bolsover resigned before the league AGM.
The season offered so much as the FA restructuring was to go ahead the following season, with a new Step 5 league to be created in our locality. The EMCL applied to run this but instead of acceptance, they were told that they would be wound up at the end of the season. Undeterred, the league committee continued to support the clubs and oversee what looked to be a very, competitive battle to gain the 4 promotion places available in the new set up. When the annulment decision was made by the FA due to the virus, Dunkirk, Heanor, Sherwood and Eastwood Community held the key positions.
In the league cup, the competition reached the semi-final stage with Belper to play Rainworth MW and West Bridgford to play Barrow Town FC. Unfortunately, these games could not take place.
The FA approached the league to operate for a final season in the aftermath of the pandemic and the committee agreed. One addition club joined to bring the numbers back to 20 with Ollerton Town being moved from NCEL to become the last and 48th new member of the East Midlands Counties League.