It’s dog eat dog in Division Two of the Leeds Combination League at present, with all teams at a similar level and only one or two standing out above the rest. Amongst those striving for results are AFC Travellers but, as manager Gordon Booth believes, they are not going to let their heads drop in this tough league.
AFC Travellers by name and nature, they formed at the Traveller’s Rest 15 years ago and have moved location every season since.
Deciding to revert to their origins, they named themselves AFC Travellers, but now have their headquarters at West Leeds Rugby Club.
As well as constantly moving, the seasoned team now only has two players from the original line-up having faced trials and tribulations between a group of friends that started a team spurred by a mutual love for the game.
The team have faced hardships such as struggling with funding, but Booth praises the lads for never giving up and enjoying success through four consecutive promotions to get them to the league they’re in today.
From the off they’ve been a self-organising, self-funding and self-managing team.
Manager Booth plays an integral role in the upkeep of the club which he manages as well as acting as the secretary and treasurer all in one.
For Booth, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions but one that he will continue to ride to see the club he essentially founded achieve its long-term goal – to have a team that is capable of winning trophies and to have self-sufficient facilities that should make it easier to run the club.
Booth said: “The league we’re in is quite level with a few teams standing out, at least one or two.
“We came up last season and we have the ability to finish above others, but we’re making it difficult for ourselves at the moment – we just need to put the ball in the back of the net!
“We formed 15 years ago at the Traveller’s Rest and we moved every season so when we were coming up with our name we decided to revert to our original place and called ourselves AFC Traveller’s.”
He added: “At the moment we are in a league below the top division and, despite where we are in the league, it’s such a tight division it could be anyone’s.”
Booth recognises where the team started to feel ‘bumps in the road’ when players began to leave for various reasons, the main turmoil being over players having to take matters into their own hands when it comes to funding the club and paying to play in the fourth tier of five in the Leeds Combination Sunday League.
He said: “We formed from a group of friends which, at the start, was great, but it later caused problems.
“We enjoyed relative success with three or four promotions in a row, but we’re having trouble at the moment.
“We started to struggle when players started leaving left, right and centre, and now there’s only two of the originals left.
“We’ve got a decent set-up in terms of the sub-structure, but it’s difficult to retain players – good players that can pay their way.
“The pressure is on everyone else. We have struggled in terms of sponsors and getting names on the front of the shirt so the players are heavily relied on to pay their subs, which, for some, was a criteria that is difficult to meet.
“All the money comes from the players. We don’t have many social events because of this factor and because we don’t really have a clubhouse that we can do that sort of thing in.
“But the players did put a few nights on, but it’s not the same when they’re paying for it themselves. It would be great in the future if we had some external funding.”
Despite losing original players, Kris Broughton has stayed with the team since 2000/2001 and Booth can only praise his dedication to the team.
Booth said: “Kris used to play for Birstall as he lived there, but he started Travellers alongside me and our group of friends.
“We’ve enjoyed some high points together, like winning the Morston Cup in 2005/6 but we’ve also endured our group of friends disbanding and the original nucleus of players calling it a day.”
One of the main people involved in the upkeep of the club, as well as Booth and Broughton, is Danny Hurley, the captain.
Hurley has been responsible for raising money for the club and while AFC Travellers struggle to find sponsorship, this has been a vital part of keeping the club running on a Sunday.
Booth has modest short-term aspirations for the club that he believes is capable of achieving.
He said: “For now, we need to win the winnable games. We need to win three or four out of the next fives games to secure our place in this division.
“In the long run, we could do with getting a team capable of competing for trophies and then we can start pushing for the league title. Off the pitch, I’d like to have a facility that is free of subs so we can be self sufficient, that would be ideal.”
With Travellers sitting at the wrong end of the table, they still stand a fighting chance of winning their next few games and staying in the running for promotion next season.
The club is nine points adrift of 12th-placed FC West Leeds and only a point sits between them and Royal Park Leeds in 10th. Their next few fixtures could be winnable, as Booth reiterated, it’s just a case of making sure every effort is put in to scoring goals.
The club can be proud of recent success, having been promoted every season for the last four.
And, in a game as surprising and unpredictable as football can be, there’s no reason why AFC Travellers can’t go on to win cups and gain promotion next season.
Founders: Gordon Booth and Kris Broughton
Manager/Secretary: Gordon Booth
Play at: West Leeds Rugby Club
High point: Winning the Morston Cup in 2005/6 season
Low point: Losing original players who were a group of friends