Team of the Week: Boxing clever – Leeds football’s very own ‘great white hope’

Hope Inn Whites who have been kitted out by Leeds boxer Josh Warrington.
Hope Inn Whites who have been kitted out by Leeds boxer Josh Warrington.
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Given that they are sponsored by Leeds boxer Josh Warrington, it should come as no surprise that Hope Inn Whites are punching above their weight this season.

Over the last 18 months, Warrington has become one of Britain’s great hopes in boxing, winning the European featherweight champion and going on to extended his unbeaten record to 22 fights.

Meanwhile, Hope Inn – competing with Warrington’s nickname, Leeds Warrior, emblazoned across their shirts – have formed, won promotion to the Leeds Combination Jubilee Premier Division, and currently sit atop one of the toughest amateur leagues in the country; certainly one of the best leagues in Yorkshire.

Not only are the Whites blazing a trail in the league, but, as things stand, the club has the target of an unparalleled quadruple in its sights.

On March 6, Hope Inn will face Leeds City Rovers in the semi-final of the Sanford Cup, while they will face the winner of JB Celtic and Leeds City Rovers in the semi-final of the Leeds & District FA Sunday Senior Challenge Cup.

And on top of that, in just over a month’s time, Hope Inn will line up against Thornton United in the semi-final of the West Riding County FA Sunday Cup.

While Warrington’s beloved Leeds United have generally shifted from one controversy to another this season – as has been the norm in recent years – Hope Inn’s campaign could hardly have gone any smoother.

From September to February, the side won all 14 of their matches in all competitions.

To put things into perspective, Leeds United have won 10 games all season.

During that run of victories, Hope Inn racked up a staggering 66 goals, conceding only 10 times.

In and among those results was a 4-0 win over Leeds City Rovers, a 4-1 success over Kippax Band Club, a 16-1 demolition of Fountain Head, an 8-0 hammering of Oulton Athletic, a 6-1 thrashing of Harehills WMC, a 7-2 thumping of Badri and a 5-0 triumph over Halifax Hammers. In charge of the team is John Ward, who not only manages the first team but is the driving force behind the whole club, and was behind their relocation from Barwick to the Hope Inn pub.

Ward insists that the club’s recent success is down to the players having competed together through the ranks for various different teams, many of which he has also been at the helm of.

“Thankfully we had no problems moving to the Hope Inn as the landlord, Gary, was very helpful and glad to have the team playing from the pub,” he says.

“It was quite smooth to set up the club. All the lads paid a signing on fee and Josh Warrington kindly provided all the kit.

“Josh is best friends with my son, Sean.

“They went to school together so that is where the link comes from.

“Josh said he wanted to put something back into the community which he was brought up in so he gave us a massive helping hand.

“I am the manager, the secretary, the bottle washer; you name it and I will either do it or have done it at some point.

“I’ve coached most of the players since they were five years old, so we are a really tight-knit group having played together for so long.

“At first it was with Seacroft Colts and then we carried on with Leeds Lions, where we won the County Cup at under-16s level.

“Following on from that, we were Garforth League winners for two years on the trot, and then we went into the open age Division Two of the Leeds Combination League.

“At that level we won the double of the Mawson Trophy and the league in the same year.”

The help Warrington has provided has no doubt been a massive boost for both Ward and the club, as it takes huge pressure off their shoulders.

In recent months a number of grassroots sides around the Leeds area have had to fold, while some continue to struggle.

The first half of the current season was marred by the departure of former multiple champions Bardsey from the West Yorkshire League.

A few months later, County Sunday Cup champions Belle Isle WMC announced they were folding before an 11th hour rescue bid saw them continue.

And then came the unthinkable, Chapeltown Fforde Green, Leeds Combination League champions and one of the most successful sides in Yorkshire, announcing their shock decision to fold their Combination side.

In addition, HT Sports and Halton Moor, two other teams who are normally in and around title contention, have struggled to field full starting XI’s over the last few months.

HT Sports proved that they are still a team to be reckoned with by ending Hope Inn’s 14-match winning streak with an impressive 7-1 thumping of their own.

Such a result could have been a knockout blow for many clubs, but the Whites have managed to pick themselves up off the canvas, regain their composure and come back out swinging. On Sunday, Ward took his men to Horsforth Fairweather, where they returned to winning ways by grinding out a hard-fought 2-1 success.

Lewis Hindley and substitute Leon Walker scored the goals for Hope Inn.

And the three points could prove a pivotal moment in the race for the title this term, as it put Hope Inn six points clear at the top of the table. Ward added: “It was really disappointing to see Chapeltown fold. They consistently set the standards which we are hoping to reach, so it is sad to see such a good team go down.

“Personally, I also have a lot of good memories because my lad, Sean, used to play for them.

“The 14-match winning run has been our club’s high point so far, which made the 7-1 defeat to HT Sports a real low.

“To their credit they gave us a real footballing lesson that day. It shows though that we have a good team spirit. There is a good rapport between all the players and they are willing to train every week.

“We must remember that they’ve got youth on their side so they just need a little bit more experience which will come with time.

“In terms of our targets, we want to win at least one trophy this year, which we are in with a great chance of doing. And then we want to play in the Carlsberg Cup next year.”

The Leeds grassroots scene, and of course Warrington, will definitely raise a glass to that.

FACT FILE

Founded: 2015

Headquarters: Hope Inn pub, York Road

Home ground: East End Park

Division: Leeds Combination Jubilee Premier League

Chairman: Ian Ryan

Manager: John Ward

Treasurer: Cheryl Ward

Captain: Seasn Ward

Top scorers: Stevie Mallory

Sponsor: Josh Warrington

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