St John Fisher Old Boys are going for their third Heavy Woollen Premier Division title in four years, but the West Riding County Sunday Cup would be the real icing on the cake. Danny T Owen and Lee Sobot report.
UPON THEIR formation in 1977, St John Fisher Old Boys were named Holy Spirit in nod to the Holy Spirit Roman Catholic School and Church in Heckmondwike.
Things may have gone on from the Holy Spirit in the 38 years since, with the Heavy Woollen League team showing great spirit on the field, chasing their third league title in four years – with the County Sunday Cup being the old Holy Spirit team’s Holy Grail.
Fisher were formed in 1977 as Holy Spirit by founder members Thomas Disken, Bernard Waters and Charles Hutchinson.
Disken was a school governor at St John Fisher Roman Catholic High School in Dewsbury where Paul Riordan was among the pupils. Nearly four decades later, Riordan is the club’s manager, having first started playing for Fisher aged 16 back in 1979.
The club began life using the Holy Spirit facilities but moved to Fisher and changed their name in the process. It is now a name every club in the Heavy Woollen League is extremely familiar with given the side have won the Premier Division crown twice in the last three years. Only goal difference denied Fisher a hat-trick of triumphs last season with Riordan’s side pipped at the post by Birkenshaw. Fisher have responded in style and are unbeaten at the top of the Premier Division as the club count down the days to next month’s County Sunday Cup semi-final with Leeds side HT Sports. Think Heavy Woollen League dominance, think St John Fisher Old Boys with the team captained by Irfane Kahn and propelled by the goals of Rob Bordman, Robert Hiscox and Dominic Simpson. Yet after 36 years with the club, Riordan is well placed to stress that Fisher dominance has not always been so forthcoming.
“Things are going well but I have played in some not very good St John’s sides,” explains Riordan. “There were some dark days in Division Two when we struggled for players in the 80’s.
“Eventually we won the division in 1987 but we remained in Division One until 2005 when we were promoted to the Premier as champions but we got relegated again in 2009. We were promoted back to the Premier as champions in 2010 and we have never really looked back but it’s only in the last few years that we have come to the fore.”
Riordan also plays a big part in sponsoring the club through his No.9 Steels Ltd business which he started in 2009. The company buys and sells steel sections and the link with St John Fisher Old Boys is intertwined. Riordan revealed: “I wanted an unusual name so plumped for ‘No 9’ as that was the position I played for Fishers.”
And the Riordan family as a whole have also played an integral part to the Fisher success story. Manager Paul’s older brother John is a former Fisher first team manager who can count Wigan Athletic, Huddersfield Town, Halifax Town and Guiseley among his former clubs. He also earned an England Youth International Cap versus Wales and has worked for the County FA for over 12 years.
John’s three sons, Jamie, 34, Dominic, 27 and Andrew, 25, are all involved with the club with defender Dominic also serving Evo-Stik side Ossett Albion as both a player and chairman. His recent strike against Scarborough made him the first goalscoring chairman in English football. The Fisher manager’s own son – Tom – and cousin Tim – are also involved while Chris Thornton – another Fisher player – is another of Riordan’s cousins. And family tradition runs deep at Fisher with founder member Hutchinson still a fan who comes to watch games with sons Shaun and Mark who are also ex-players. Several pairs of brothers have played for Fisher’s over the years – including the Summerscales, Hutchinsons, Henrys, Sullivans, Keenans, Buddens, Keelans and Bordmans to name but a few.
Yet it is the Riordan family that have had most influence with 51-year-old Paul today’s top dog with the manager joking that he’ll go away less often in light of the only occasion this season that his team have dropped points.
“Things are going well and it would be nice to win the league again,” said the manager. “I’m only disappointed we dropped points against Birkenshaw when I was away ski-ing.
“I go away and this is what happens!”
It is, though, Fisher’s rivals that are more often than not on a slippery slope as the Dewsbury side close in on a third league title in four years.
The drive for elusive County Sunday Cup glory also remains alive and kicking ahead of an intriguing semi-final with HT Sports that will be particularly interesting for Bordman.
Top scorer Bordman left Fisher for HT earlier in the year but is now back with the Dewsbury side ahead of a mouth-watering semi-final.
Fisher are also in the semis of the Heavy Woollen Cup and Brook Butler Cup but it is the County Sunday Cup that matters most.
Riordan mused: “We know HT are a good side as we played them in this four years ago and actually beat them to get to the quarter-finals in which we then lost.
“We’ve never even been to the semi-final and it’s great getting to the last four for the first time.
“Hopefully we can go all the way and win it.”