Team of the Week: Table doesn’t tell story of City’s season

Team of the Week, Leeds City Rovers. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Team of the Week, Leeds City Rovers. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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AT FIRST glance, it would be natural to assume Leeds City Rovers had endured a forgettable 2015-16 campaign.

After all, the club are second bottom of the Leeds Combination League top flight with just two wins out of nine games.

Yet two wins in the next five days could cap the team’s best season ever ahead of two cup finals including the first at Elland Road.

Seacroft WMC provide the opposition in both – with Rovers manager Zaheer ‘Panny’ Ahmed plotting the downfall of his former side.

Rovers and Seacroft first lock horns in tonight’s Leeds & District FA Sunday Senior Challenge Cup at the home of Leeds United.

Then, just four days later, the two teams will meet again in the Leeds Combination League’s version of the FA Cup – the Sanford Cup – part of two finals in one day at Farsley Celtic FC.

As league leaders, Ahmed naturally knows that Seacroft will be seen as favourites for both finals as Les Nelson’s men aim to wrap up what would be a memorable treble should they also pip Hope Inn Whites to the Jubilee Premier League crown.

But Rovers also have their eyes firmly set on a dream end to the current campaign and where Seacroft are concerned, Ahmed has an extra incentive for victory. Ahmed recalled: “I actually started my footballing career at Seacroft WMC at the age of nine and played with and against the now Seacroft manager Les Nelson.

“Having played at grassroots level for 25 years, it’s the first time I am taking my team to Elland Road and strangely against the club where it all began for me!

“Having not fulfilled our true potential in the league, it has been entirely the opposite in the cup competitions.

“Some excellent performances have resulted in a well deserved progression to two cup finals at Elland Road and Throstle Nest and the team are now full of confidence and the dressing room is bouncing.

“There is a good atmosphere around the club as a whole and we are ready for the challenge of the Elland Road final.”

For Ahmed, victory in either final would mark a second piece of silverware in just four years at the helm.

The Rovers player took over the managerial reins during the summer of 2012 when Stuart Wilson stepped down as manager with Ahmed’s men then rebuilding with mid-table finishes. Last season Rovers finished fifth and bagged the new manager his first piece of silverware as an Adam Bond brace sunk Main Line 2-1 in the final of the Leeds Combination Cup.

And Ahmed is keen to add further silverware to the cabinet of a club who act as the Sunday side for West Yorkshire League powerhouses Leeds City.

Both clubs operate from Adel Memorial Ground on Church Lane with the Sunday side originally formed as a Leeds City Juniors side and continuing into open age football as Adel Rovers, winning both the Mawson Cup and District Cup in their first season of 2005-06.

Under their old name, the outfit achieved promotion from Division Four of the Leeds Combination League in the same season with the team then re-named as Leeds City Rovers FC for the start of 2006/07.

Back-to-back promotions under the management of Wilson followed until they reached the Jubilee Premier Division, coming close to winning the title on two occasions.

Now Ahmed is keen to finish the current campaign by bringing at least one prestigious trophy back to Adel.

“These opportunities don’t come along very often so we intend on bringing the trophy back to the Adel Memorial Club,” said the gaffer.

“The team has been in transition for a couple of seasons prior to this one and this season we have started to reap the rewards for a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes as well as on the pitch.

“We have signed a number of players to add to the brand and style of football I want to play.

“Adding a few more technical and attacking players to an already good squad has brought a much better balance to the team.

“Moving forward we want to raise our levels further and start competing in the league because we know we are more than capable.

“But first and foremost, let’s win some silverware this season!

“I have a fantastic squad, a good, honest set of lads who whether win lose or draw, I am proud to manage.

“I have fantastic support from our club committee and not forgetting our senior players Simon Holliday and captain Jamie Cairns who have helped me throughout with various club and team secretary duties.

“Special recognition should go to Darren Needham, David Comery and Mark McFarlane who head up the football committee. They have made some very positive changes this season helping to integrate the various adult and junior teams.”

Another important member of the Leeds City Rovers success story comes from within Ahmed’s own household.

At a time when players are needing a helping hand to fulfil babysitting duties, wife Shabana has been the club’s saviour, fulfilling the role for both of this season’s big semi-finals.

Victory against new emerging force Hope Inn Whites in the District Cup this season was particularly memorable.

Outfield player Holliday recalled: “The team has done brilliantly to reach Elland Road. We reached the semi-final stage two seasons ago but lost 1-0 to Stanningley and we seemed to freeze on the night. This time we were very much the underdogs at Bracken Edge against league leaders Hope Inn Whites who have a cracking team and also reached three semi-finals themselves. Despite going a goal down we showed great character to bounce back and put in our best performance of the season when it mattered most.

“I am currently out injured so was watching from the dug out and the atmosphere was special, particularly when we took the lead.

“The team were very grateful to all those from the club and beyond who came to support us and let’s hope we can replicate the performance on May 4.

“It will probably be the best entertainment Elland Road has seen all season!”

Rovers boss Ahmed certainly hopes so, and if United’s Italian owner, Massimo Cellino, fancies watching the game then all the better.

“Several of the players are keen Leeds Utd fans,” laughed Ahmed. “If they impress then please let Cellino know that I am open to six-figure offers!”

FACT FILE

Founded: 2005 (as Adel Rovers).

Ground: Adel Memorial Ground, Church Lane, Leeds.

Division: Leeds Combination League Jubilee Premier.

Manager: Zaheer ‘Panny’ Ahmed.

Home colours: Royal blue shirts, shorts and socks.

Captain: Jamie Cairns.

Secretary: Simon Holliday.

Commitee: Darren Needham, David Comery and Mark McFarlane.

Sponsors: Sports Bulk Supplies, Al-Murad Tiles, Farnley Roofing, Z A Building Solution.

Honours: Mawson Cup (2006), District Cup (2006), Combination Cup (2015).

Dan Daly of Beeston St Anthony's.

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