AS the Christmas break draws nearer, Shadwell United sit bottom of the Claro League and are still seeking their first win of the season.
Yet manager Tom Winterburn says the club remain on a proud high at putting the village club back on the Sunday football map.
There is now, quite literally, a school of thought that the only way is up for a team potentially eyeing the Leeds Combination League under their young, PE-teacher manager.
Playing out of Trees Tops Community Centre, Shadwell were formed in the summer when the former Cookridge FC top scorer joined Shadwell’s locals in the Red Lion in assessing the potential of a club that runs various age group sides. A plan was put in place to launch a Shadwell United Sunday team which grew from having just eight members to 25 within the first six weeks of training. And while 29-year-old Winterburn is all too aware of the costs and efforts required to maintain such a team, the young manager is determined not only to keep the newly formed side afloat but furthermore to win trophies and potentially join the area’s most thriving league in years to come.
Shadwell play in the largely Harrogate-based Claro League which features 19 teams across two divisions. And despite sitting 10th of 10 in the tier below, Winterburn is optimistic about his side’s future, which could even eventually lead to joining the Combination which features 56 teams across five divisions. The success of the Combination does not paint the entire typical picture of grassroots football with the Saturday-run West Yorkshire League – the top level of grassroots football – having seen 10 teams fold since the start of the season, including Bardsey. Winterburn, though, is determined that his fledgling Shadwell United will continue to go from strength to strength.
Winterburn told the YEP: “In the modern day, in our Leeds area local football teams recently have been folding tenfold.
“When you look into the finances it takes to run it, there is little wonder. Our council pitch (with changing room) hire alone, before we have kicked a ball is around £1,000. Therefore we are grateful for our shirt sponsor Harvey Burns & Co and for the Red Lion at Shadwell, who are our social HQ, that have championed grassroots football. I really hope more is done by our local council to support grassroots men’s football in the immediate future.”
Expanding on the road to ‘reforming’ Shadwell as a Sunday entity, Winterburn explained: “A few local lads were talking with myself, including Rob Hastings, Mick Parr and Ryan Shaw, in the Red Lion Pub about setting one up. We felt the area had such a lot going for it with plenty of young adults around so and we just went for it! In the six weeks of training, we went from just eight players training, to 25! Our other Shadwell age-group managers – Peter Cass and Richard Trout – have been hugely supportive of our new team and have helped spread the word greatly. A huge thanks go to these guys, for their weekly dedication in grassroots football. There was a very successful Shadwell United Football club around in the 1980s. Word has it most of them retired and it was never passed on.
“We have reformed the club and want to be at least as successful as that team in the modern era. “We are aware of a couple of teams that played around the Shadwell area under various names but not of a Shadwell United affiliated to the club here running five age groups.”
Handily, Winterburn’s day job also involves the beautiful game with the Shadwell boss admitting his profession as a PE teacher at Westfields in Batley has helped in getting United up and running. Better still, wife Katie also bakes for the team fundraisers. Winterburn mused: “In my career as a PE teacher, organising school football teams go hand in hand with running a football team; socials, setting games up/dealing with the paperwork has been routine for a while now. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to give this opportunity to people in my local community and the majority of our players are from Shadwell Village or the immediate surrounding areas – Moortown, Shadwell Lane etc. The lads have been excellent with their attitude and if there was an award for the most hard-working and loyal team, then we would be right up there, but if there was a best looking team competition – well, I’m not so sure!”
Yet Winterburn is confident Shadwell are looking good both in their short-term and long-term future. The immediate aim is to bag that elusive first win in the Claro League. Long term the idea of joining the Combination has been entertained.
He added: “Our aim is first to build a competitive team and then it is to win trophies in the local area. Our ethos is championing free flowing football, commitment and respect through football. We have considered joining some of the other league in Leeds but the Claro was recommended by a friend and we are fortunate to have a choice of leagues.
“The Claro League are a very good set-up, organised, straight talking people and they have been hugely helpful when we set up our new team. I would recommend the league to anyone in a similar position.”
SHADWELL UNITED FACT FILE
Ground: Trees Tops Community Centre.
League: Claro League Division Two.
Manager: Tom Winterburn.
Social headquarters: The Red Lion pub, Main Street, Shadwell.
Founding members: Tom Winterburn, Rob Hastings, Mick Parr, Ryan Shaw.
Sponsors: Harvey Burns & Co.