Stepping down a level has, reaped unexpected rewards for Pendas Arms chairman and joint-manager Steve Gilmore. Lee Sobot reports.
From Brian Deane to Bryn Law, a 50-year football career has seen ex-Leeds United man Steve Gilmore rub shoulders with some illustrious names.
By his own admission, venturing into the Leeds Combination League with pub team Pendas Arms has been a case of stepping down a level.
Yet there are no airs and graces with chairman and joint-manager Gilmore who only wishes he’d began the birth of Pendas sooner.
Gilmore, 58, began his footballing career as a junior at Leeds United where he progressed to the Intermediate side. And while the Seacroft-born ace never got the opportunity to pull on a Whites first-team shirt – or even reserve-team one – there have been plenty of good times and big names since.
Through the formation of Seacroft Colts some 30 years ago, Gilmore has helped the likes of Deane, Andy Watson and Clive Freeman into the professional game. A successful spell with Bardsey Veterans also led Gilmore to link up with the likes of Sky Sports presenter Law plus Dean Windass and Andy Liddell. And through his Leeds United days, Gilmore even had David Batty and Vinnie Jones as guests at his barbecue.
Yet today the former Whites junior is cooking up a new treat in Division Two of the Leeds Combination League and Pendas Arms is a recipe of which Gilmore is particularly proud of – even if at first there was a fair degree of trepidation. It was back in the summer that Gilmore – then manager of Yorkshire Amateur League side Collingham AFC – was asked about the prospect of forming a Pendas Arms pub team to represent his local ale house. Prior to his four years at the helm at Collingham, Gilmore had been reserve team manager at Garforth Town in the EvoStik League. It meant adapting to Sunday League football took some doing but a proud Gilmore now only wishes he’d taken on his new adventure sooner – even allowing for an initial case of the collywobbles.
“When I took the first couple of training sessions I thought ‘what the hell have I done here’,” admitted Gilmore, who lives local to the club on the Birchfields Estate.
“I just had my worries because of the quality of players which we were getting. But from there, players found their feet and there were a few players from Collingham that joined me and so far we have gone on to have an amazing season. Now I wish I had gone up to the Pendas years ago because I didn’t realise the talent that I had on my own doorstop. I am well happy with the way things are going.”
Recalling how the summer transition to Pendas started, Gilmore continued: “I’ve obviously been involved with quite a few clubs over the years but I ended up speaking with my landlord in my local pub who said he’d like to get a team together and he said ‘would you help?’
“He said would you get it started and I said yes so I had a word with one of the locals lads down there called Sean Ratchford from CableCom Training who are now our main sponsors.
“I said to him ‘if I start this football team will you sponsor me’ and he said ‘yes, on one condition, that you take charge and that you’re there.’
“I said ‘okay’ and I went back to Barry Ward at the pub who is now the landlord and our treasurer and that was it. That was the birth of the Pendas Arms.”
From those initial beginnings, Gilmore’s Pendas have quickly gone from strength to strength. Second in Division Two of the Leeds Combination League, Pendas have lost just one league game this term with the Whinmoor outfit also into the quarter-finals and semi-finals of two domestic cup competitions.
Given it is their first season together, Gilmore says he would be satisfied with finishing in the top four yet there is no denying that the competitive chairman and joint manager has loftier ambitions than that.
Gillmore has also recently begun coaching on Saturday mornings at Rothwell Town Juniors whom his six-year-old grandson Callum plays for but Pendas provides the Sunday project with Gilmore a man on a mission.
Gilmore explained: “When I first went to the league meeting the welcome I got was amazing. But I warned the people in there from teams in the Premier and I said to them ‘in a few years I’ll be kicking your arses.’ They all started laughing at me but one of the lads said ‘the trouble is, we know that he means it!”
Yet Gilmore knows his side will have to learn to walk before they can run, even if they are blessed with a stellar coaching team. Pendas, who play at Fearnville Playing Fields, are also coached by Gilmore’s brother Billy – formerly of Huddersfield Town – as head coach. Steve Lascelles also joint manages, and also key to the operation is main sponsor CableCom Training. Gilmore may have begun life at Leeds United but the former printing business worker is fully aware of just how tough it is for Sunday league football teams to make ends meet.
Gilmore – who has a 30-year-old son called Leon – says that without his club’s sponsor his side would have been doomed yet instead there is the scope for the Pendas operation under Gilmore to continue for many years to come.
“Everyone at the Pendas has been brilliant such as Baz, our treasurer who is now the pub’s landlord,” said Gilmore, who lives with “football widow” partner Margaret.
“And Sean from CableCom has been absolutely brilliant as without him I wouldn’t have been able to get started. He’s been our backbone – he’s bought the nets, balls, kits, everything and without him we would have been knackered.”
Assessing just how long his Pendas adventure can last, Gilmore reasoned: “I have had a fantastic career to be honest and I am trying to put back what I have had out. And I’ll carry on while I can. I’m just recovering from a stomach operation but I’m doing okay and while ever I have got that hunger for the game I’ll be there.
Football has been my life and I’ve had a wonderful career but this is the first time I’ve ever had the chance to do anything like this. I only wish I’d done it sooner.”
Formed: Summer 2013.
League: Leeds Combination League Division Two.
Chairman and joint-manager: Steve Gilmore.
Joint-manager: Steve Lascelles.
Head coach: Billy Gilmore.
Treasurer: Barry Ward.
Secretary: Jordan Riley.
Captain: Ryan Nelson.
Sponsor: CableCom Training.
Home ground: Fearnville Playing Fields, Oakwood Lane, Leeds.
Headquarters: Pendas Arms, Naburn Approach, Whinmoor.