While Leeds United fans up and down the country can only dream about winning promotion for at least another season, Wakefield-based Henry Boons FC are currently in the midst of celebrating their first climb up the league ladder in only their third season since forming.
After competing as the reserve team for Inns of Court for two years, the side decided to split to form their own club in the Wakefield and District Saturday League in the summer of 2013. Under the guidance of James Simpson, who ended his long-running association with Inns of Court to embark on his own adventure, the outfit have gone from strength to strength, and will now compete in the league’s second division next term.
In truth it was a huge leap of faith from Simpson, who is modestly quick to credit others for the club’s success, but it is a testament to his work that so many players were willing to drop a couple of divisions.
“I had been with the Inns for about seven years before that, and we had a large group of players and the club was successful,” Simpson says. “We set up a reserve team but running two teams from the one club wasn’t really working so we amicably decided to split and so I approached Boons about having a Saturday team.
“The name comes from the pub we play out of, Henry Boons, on Westgate. Boons seemed the natural choice of pub to approach as a group of the players had always drunk in there. We were surprised that such a pub as well known in the centre of town didn’t have a Saturday team already.
“I pitched it to the players who were all keen so decided to make the move. Pretty much the whole reserve team and even a few of the lads from the first team came to the new club, while the Inns team carried on playing in the first division of the Wakefield Saturday League.
“I’m the chairman and secretary and run the club along with Gavin Simpkins who is the treasurer. Gavin was friends with a few of the lads and came to watch most of our games and so I approached him about joining me to help run things and we put an application into the league.
“Gavin is heavily involved with Thornes Juniors FC – a prominent local club in Wakefield – and his experience has been invaluable to me and the club. We try and make any decisions about the club direction as a group, the club belongs to the players, so we want them as involved in decision making as possible. We try and have a team meeting after each season to plan for the next and if any of the players wants to get involved then the option is there, but we try and agree any big decisions as a group.
“Also, there should be a special shout out to James O’Neill, or maybe his wife Amanda, who seems to have washed the kit more than anyone this season!”
After an initial season of consolidation, in which the club – who are sponsored by the pub’s Clarks Brewery – finished a respectable ninth, Henry Boons have become a force to be reckoned with over the past two campaigns. Last term, the club narrowly missed out on promotion. With the top three going up, they finished fourth, having won only one match less than third-place Horbury Athletic.
Perhaps spending one more season at this level has been a blessing in disguise. While they did register some notable victories, including a thrilling 4-3 triumph at Horbury, they were also on the receiving end of some heavy losses.
In addition, there was further heartache in the League Cup final, narrowly losing 2-1 to Waterloo FC at Crofton Community Centre. Simpson acknowledges Waterloo as Henry Boons’ main rivals, with the two clubs based only 500 yards apart, albeit insisting it is a ‘friendly’ rivalry.
However, the club have continued their upward trajectory, and finally secured a coveted promotion spot with a 2-0 victory over Eastmoor FC Reserves at the weekend. AFC Junction, who have dropped points only twice, may have stormed the division to finish top, but Henry Boons have gained some form of revenge on Waterloo by pipping their rivals to second place.
After opening their campaign with a 1-1 draw with Overthorpe SC, the team thrashed New Carlton FC 6-0 in their second fixture, and have barely stopped scoring since. A 7-2 rout of Fleece FC followed, while in the four league games between November 7 and January 16, Boons bagged 17 goals. Likewise, between February and April, the club struck 29 times in six fixtures.
It subsequently comes as no surprise to find that in Scott Borrill and Aaron Redfearn, the club possess the deadliest strike force in the division, with the duo having scored 47 goals between themselves this term.
“This season has been excellent,” Simpson admits proudly. “We have challenged all season and are disappointed with the points we have dropped.
“We set ourselves a target of promotion and we’ve managed to achieve that now, but most of all we have had fun and enjoyed it. We really want to try and win the league cup final.
“After the disappointment of losing last season we really want a cup final win but as long as we continue to improve then Gav and I ill be happy. I wouldn’t call anyone out as a star player. The whole group have contributed to this season and where we have got to.
“We are lucky to have a solid spine to the team, building from the goalkeeper Artur Szelagowski, James O’Neill at centre-half, our captain James Lewis in midfield, and goals coming from both our main strikers Scott Borrill and Aaron Redfearn.
“But everyone in the squad has contributed to the season.”
Slightly surprising, Simpson’s side aren’t the only Henry Boons football club competing in Wakefield.
In the second tier of the Wakefield and District Sunday League, there is both a Boons FC and a Henry Boons FC, although there is no direct link between any of the trio.
Simpson does have a warning for their namesakes, however: “They are two completely separate teams, although we play a pre-season friendly.
“The Sunday team won last season, so we will be looking for revenge in the summer.”
Judging by the rate at which Simpson and his men have progressed over their first three years, don’t be surprised to see them competing with teams from a higher level in no time at all.
Division: Wakefield and District League Division Three
Based: Thornes Park, Wakefield
Chairman/Secretary: James Simpson
Treasurer: Gavin Simpkins
Captain: James Lewis
Top scorer: Scott Borrill
Sponsors: Clarks Brewery
Rivals: Waterloo FC