Bardsey boss Lee Barraclough hailed his side’s character after they wrapped up an emotional league triumph.
The Keswick Laners secured the West Yorkshire Premier championship crown after beating Wetherby Athletic 2-0 on Saturday’s final day of the season (full report pg. ).
In the end the win became irrelevant as their only title challengers Oxenhope Recreation were usurped 4-0 at home to Leeds City.
Barraclough’s men engraved their name into the history books as they ended three points above City with 71 points from their 30 games.
The league success was perfect redemption for Barraclough after the side lost the title at the death last year on goal difference.
And the boss highlighted the defensive work of assistant manager Gary Melia’s as key to their crowing glory.
“I owe a lot of it to Gary,” Barraclough said.
“He means a lot to me. He’s one of my best pals and to win it with him is brilliant.
“We were a millimetre away last year. We had a lot of bad luck with injuries. It will be emotional once we get a few drinks inside us.”
The gaffer admitted his side were “buzzing” as the celebrations started.
He said: “When the season started we wanted the league more than anything. We’ve got it back. We are over the moon.
“This is the third time I’ve won it. I’m lucky, a lot of managers in this league never get to win it.”
Saturday’s league triumph curtailed a fine season for the red and blacks after they reached two cup semi-finals (League Cup and County Cup) and won the Barkston Ash trophy.
Melia added: “These lads put their bodies on the line for no money and do that, it’s a massive family club. It grips you.
“They have all worked as a unit. It’s started from there. I’m really proud of them.
“To win a league when it’s taken you over 10 months, it’s one hell of an achievement.”
Towering centre half Michael Mills was included in Saturday’s team after months recovering from a perforated bowel, marking his return with the opening goal.
Daniel Maw added a second from a first half counter attack as Bardsey eased to the win. But Barraclough and Melia paid particular praise to the returning hero Mills.
Barraclough said: “It’s great to have Millsy back. He’s been at the club for 25 years. We might have brought him in a little early but for him to play 90 minutes is amazing.”
“It’s testament to him, the character he has. We kept asking him if he was OK and he just kept playing through it,” added Melia.
Captain Jamie Thompson was suspended for the season bookend but Barraclough gave special credit to his “lionheart”.
The gaffer also praised striker Rob Dickinson’s potency after the former Ipswich Town trainee fired 37 league goals this season.
“He’s special. You ask anyone to come and get you 60 or 70 goals in a season. Those players aren’t about,” said Barraclough.
“He’s got a few more seasons in him. We’ll have a conditioning coach coming down and working with him over the summer.”
Barraclough admitted he’d had offers to move up the football pyramid but he confirmed he was staying with Bardsey.
“We now have to keep the desire in them. We are not losing anyone. They are all staying. We’ve signed a few boys already for next year.
“We are Bardsey through. Days like this make you realise. We have to say a big thank-you to our chairman Gary Hopton. He’s the best chairman in the league.”