Inspired by their conference north namesakes, FC West Leeds (Guiseley) plan to conquer the leeds combination league. Lee Sobot reports.
SIX games into the new Conference North season, Guiseley have been threatening to take the division by storm.
It’s been coming – with young manager Mark Bower proving an inspiration. And now one of Bower’s biggest fans is hoping to replicate that success on the Sunday football front – as FC West Leeds (Guiseley) embark on a new adventure in the Leeds Combination League.
Calum Cullen is the man responsible for the creation of FC West Leeds (Guiseley) – one of several new teams introduced into Division Three of the Leeds Combination. And the popularity of the Leeds grassroots game is music to the ears of Cullen who has a passion for parks football having been involved in the game for as long as he can remember.
A keen Bradford City fan, Cullen grew up playing for local sides such as Nabwood Juniors and Baildon Trinity Juniors whom he helped win the Wharfedale Junior Cup at Under-16s level. Brief stints with Delius and Wrose Bull followed before Cullen joined Bojangles as first a player and then manager which ultimately fuelled dreams of setting up his own side.
In setting up a team around Guiseley, Cullen hopes to reach the footballing audiences of both the Baildon patch he is familiar with as well as Leeds.
Cullen – head of sales for Tiger Sheds – readily admits that starting up from scratch has not been easy, so much so that his new club began life with only a handful of players. However, a helping hand from the West Riding County FA, the Station pub they are run from and even Guiseley FC’s fans group on Twitter gave the fledgling side the push they needed. Several months later, FC West Leeds (Guiseley) are up and running in the Leeds Combination.
An opening day 11-0 loss to Kippax Band Club was hardly the ideal opening but passionate Cullen is delighted with his new creation which he hopes will evolve into something much bigger in the years to come.
“I formed this club because I have a love for what I call ‘honest’ football,” Cullen told the YEP.
“That’s basically grassroots and I have a romantic notion of what that means. I just think this level hasn’t been spoilt by big money. It’s great to watch and be involved in and I have a particular way I think football should be played so I wanted to put my stamp on my own team.
“I had planned to base a team in Guiseley when the idea first came to mind in October last year. I am from Baildon originally and know a fair few footballers in that area, as well as in Leeds, and decided to base a team somewhere in between.
“So with the team based in that area, I chose FC West Leeds as a team name so that it wouldn’t put people off from surrounding areas in joining the club. For instance, calling the team Guiseley Sunday FC, for arguments sake, may not appeal to somebody living further afield. But getting the players in was a problem and we started off with only a handful of players being interested! I went on to speak to the West Riding FA in regards to helping recruit, as well as putting up posters in surrounding shops, the pub we run from – The Station - and using social networks to drum up interest.
“Now I would like this to be the start of something bigger.
“Long term aim I want this club to be successful both on and off the pitch, with new teams being formed over the next few years and hopefully some success stories in terms of playing achievements.”
Cullen dreams of his team eventually having multiple sides but for now the Division Three Combination outfit are the sole flag bearers.
And the West Leeds manager has cut his cloth accordingly – so much so that his outfit are choosing not use the changing rooms based on their Shaw Lane Recreation Ground/Queensway home in a bid to save money.
“I applied for the playing fields after a recommendation from somebody who had played at the fields as a youngster for Guiseley Dynamos,” said Cullen, who lives in Leeds city centre and works in Rodley. “I went down and had a look at the pitches and was impressed at the state of the pitch. And not using the changing rooms was a team decision.
“We weighed up the pros and cons regarding using them and decided that as a new team, we wanted to ‘cut our cloth accordingly’ and as there were no repercussions for not using we decided to not use them for the forthcoming season.”
That season is now up and running as the only Leeds Combination team with Guiseley in their name set about putting the area on the map on the Sunday football front. There is no direct link with the Guiseley Conference North Saturday side but Cullen is a big fan of the Lions and in particular their former Bradford City player manager.
“In terms of a relationship with Guiseley FC, there is no official connection to the club, although the fans group on Twitter have been excellent in helping to recruit players,” said Cullen, who is helped by treasurer Lauren Coley and assistant manager and team captain Harley Hirst.
“It’s always great to see local teams flourishing, and personally it’s very pleasing to see ex-Bradford City player Mark Bower doing so well as manager!”
Both Guiseley sides suffered losses last weekend - Bower’s Lions eclipsed 4-1 by visiting Gloucester - but Cullen hopes that for both teams the only way is up. FC West Leeds (Guiseley) might have been hammered 11-0 but Cullen is thinking of the long term and not just worrying about the one game.
“We were carrying a few injuries on Saturday and we picked up one or two during the game,” said Cullen.
“We never really got going and it was a below par performance but I imagine Kippax Band Club will be up there, it is likely to be a very tough league this year.
“I’d obviously love to see us challenging towards the top of this division but I’d just like to see this club go from strength to strength, develop additional teams and see them come to fruition.
“There are some big amateur clubs in and around these areas and eventually we would love to emulate them...”
FC WEST LEEDS
League: Leeds Combination League Division Three.
MANAGER: Cal Cullen
Assistant manager and captain: Harley Hirst.
TREASURER: Lauren Coley.
GROUND: Shaw Lane Recreation Ground, Queensway.
HEADQUARTERS: The Station Pub, Guiseley.
SPONSORS: Gain Driver Training (home kit), Hirst Haulage LTD (away kit).