The uncertainty surrounding FA Trophy holders North Ferriby United during the summer must seem a long time ago for manager Billy Heath.
Fresh from their historic, not to mention unexpected FA Trophy win, the Villagers were put up for sale by their owners, with Heath involved in prolonged discussions regarding his budget for the current campaign.
Out of uncertainty a new bond has formed, the club, as a whole has moved on together.
Although maybe that should read a stronger bond has grown between the former Bridlington Town manager, his assistant Mark Carroll and their now streamlined squad.
The Villagers currently sit in second place in the Vanarama National League North table and head into Saturday’s trip to league leaders Solihull Moors knowing a win will take them within a point of Marcus Bignot’s side.
Ahead of the game, Heath reflected on his side’s opening half of the season, hailing their performance so far as “fantastic” and reiterating his belief that he is working with the smallest budget in the league.
“It’s gone really well after the uncertainty of the summer, where we are now is a massive achievement by everybody at the club.
I have said before we are operating on the smallest budget in this league, people won’t like me saying that but it is a fact.
We have limited resources, certain other teams won’t acknowledge that, so where we are now is fantastic and I am proud of everyone here at the club”
Heath, who signed a new three year contract with the club in November, has led the Villagers to two promotions since joining the club in October 2011.
For the first time in that period he is working with a smaller squad but Heath believes that his players have fostered an improved spirit as a result.
“I think it has pro’s and cons. We know we could do with another two or three players, other teams are working on squads of twenty or more.
We have seventeen and a couple of young players but we have a tight knit group. The players embrace that and we have a resolve, we are all in it together. It’s not about looking after themselves, it’s about looking after the team and that is why we are doing well this season.
I think in this day and age people miss that it’s not just about quality. You do need quality to progress and the higher up the leagues, the more you need but you need team spirit, desire and togetherness. We have that and it earns us ten to twelve points a season”
And he paid tribute to the younger players in his squad, although did concede that he hadn’t expected to use them as much during the current campaign.
“What I have been pleased with is, we know we have experienced players like Liam King and Tom Denton(pictured right), who have done well, but the younger players, who we had to bring in, have been fantastic for us.
Players like Curtis Bateson and Ben Middleton have played a lot of games, when we didn’t expect them to do that so early.
Sam Topliss is another one, yes he came from Hull City but it’s a different entity in non-league and these young lads have had a big input into where the team is right now”
With many clubs in the division currently improving their squads, Heath confirmed that he is looking to bring in one new player over the coming weeks.
However he admitted that he would only be able to make that one addition, something that he is comfortable with.
“I think we could add one player and we may do that, but it will be only one. We are working in the background on something but you see other people bringing in three or four, that is the norm and it would be nice to do that.
It’s not going to happen and I am fine with that, we are in a good place and I like where we are at in terms of the club and the players we have are working hard to make this club a successful one”
If there is to be one dark spot on the Villagers half-term report it would be their shock exit from the FA Trophy at the hands of Evo-Stik NPL First Division South club Stocksbridge Park Steels.
The Villagers got a taste of their own medicine, as just five months after producing one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition at Wembley, they were dumped out of the competition at the first hurdle by a club two levels below them in the non-league pyramid.
Heath was eager to take the positives from their shock exit and praised his side’s response to the defeat.
“I think it’s a twist of football isn’t it. The holders go out of the Trophy at the first hurdle to a team from a lower league.
It wasn’t down to lack of effort, it was just that we weren’t good enough on the ball but the lads have been great since that game and have put it behind them in the best possible way, by getting out on the pitch and winning games.
It was disappointing but in some ways it could be a blessing, it isn’t nice to say that because of the financial rewards but with our small squad it would have been tough to contend with the Trophy and the league. Last year we had to choose and we went for the Trophy but this year we only have to focus on the league”
Now Heath and his players prepare for their crucial trip to fellow promotion challengers Solihull Moors.
It was put to the Villagers boss that the game could play a big part in the outcome of the league title come the end of the season.
He refutes that suggestion and despite describing the fixture as a “big game”, he also believes that there are a number of sides at the top end of the National League North table that could find themselves just one promotion away from the Football League next season.
“If you had said there was five games to go then it is a massive game. But, although it is a big game, every game is a big game. If it was near the end of the season, with the table as it is, then it is a massive game.
If Solihull win they go seven points clear but this isn’t just about us and Solihull. It’s about the top six and I would go down to Curzon Ashton, who I really like and are one of the best teams we have faced. I would go down to Tamworth, I know Tamworth are struggling a bit but they have a great squad.
Saturday isn’t the be all and end all, there is a lot of time left and in this league, if you aren’t right, you get beat, simple as that so in every game, not just Saturday, we have to be at our best”
Interview: Mark Carruthers