YEP Leeds Team of the Week: AFC Gledhow Ladies

AFC Gledhow Ladies warming up watched by manager Colin Sherman (second right) and coach Alvin Mkandla.
AFC Gledhow Ladies warming up watched by manager Colin Sherman (second right) and coach Alvin Mkandla.
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Strong relationships appear to be the solid bedrock for success on and off the field at AFC Gledhow Ladies. Lee Sobot reports.

AFTER the best part of three decades in semi-pro men’s football, Colin Sherman began a new adventure in 2009 with ladies team Leeds City Vixens.

Staving off relegation from the National Northern Division and a County Cup win was clearly the sign of success to come.

Because five years later women’s football has led Sherman to wedded bliss with wife Samantha at the helm of rapidly progressing AFC Gledhow Ladies.

Sherman, 50, is the manager and head coach of Gledhow with wife Samantha fulfilling the secretary’s role. And both the recently married couple and their football club have made enormous strides over the last five years. AFC Gledhow Ladies did not even exist in 2011 when Sherman met Samantha through his new role at Wigton Moor Junior girls which would lead to the creation of Wigton Moor Female Football Club and the former semi pro footballer’s second job in women’s football.

Rather like at first women’s club Leeds City Vixens, instant success followed from the third division of the West Riding County Women’s League with Wigton achieving back-to-back promotions and only hampered in their progress by a lack of changing facilities at the council playing fields on Soldiers Field (Roundhay Park). Seeking a radical upgrade, Wigton Moor struck up a relationship with Gledhow Sports and Social Club, a relationship which blossomed so strongly that earlier this year Wigton Moor Ladies were renamed AFC Gledhow. And that wasn’t the only major joining of forces at the club with manager Sherman also tying the knot with Samantha in July – three and half years on from their initial meeting at Wigton Moor.

Colin, a higher level teaching assistant at Burley Park Centre by trade, has recently returned from his honeymoon with his new wife and the duo’s club are going great guns in Division One of the West Riding County Womens Football League.

The recently renamed AFC Gledhow sit top of the league – and the club’s success story sprinkled with a whirlwind romance really does take some topping.

“I met Samantha when we were both involved with Wigton Moor Junior girls three and a half years ago,” Sherman told the YEP. “When we started the open age team it involved a lot of work to get up and running. We cook the hospitality food for match days when playing at home, we wash the kit, get all the paperwork prepared for the team and matches and deal with all the finances. I couldn’t do it all without her help!”

Another key ingredient to the AFC Gledhow and before that Wigton Moor success story has been Alvin Mkandla – Sherman’s best mate, best man and current Gledhow chairman and coach.

Like Sherman, Mkandla is a Level 2 coach who also cut his teeth at semi pro men’s football with the duo reunited upon Sherman’s fledging experience of women’s football at Leeds City Vixens. The duo had previously worked together at Liversedge’s Academy where Sherman formerly coached following stints at Bradford Park Avenue and Brighouse Town, and his initial playing days in the Leeds Sunday League and Harrogate League, winning trophies with Royal Park and Queenswood Rangers. Sherman’s initial coaching experience came at Eastmoor Secure Unit and eventually the beautiful game would take both he and lifelong friend Mkandla into women’s football. Sherman recalled: “What first took me by surprise in the women’s game was not only the good standard of the women players but the appalling conditions that they were working under.

“Girls were getting changed in the back of cars as once again the local authority was failing to provide adequate changing facilities. It was at that time that we felt there was a need to introduce many of the good things that they had learnt from the semi-professional men’s game as they felt that better conditions create better performances from the players.”

That has certainly proved the case at AFC Gledhow and formerly Wigton Moor with the club making giant strides since the relocation to Gledhow Sports and Social Club.

Sherman explained: “Wigton Moor is a junior football club and because of the amount of junior teams that were based there we were forced to play on alternative pitches. These pitches were council pitches and the biggest difficulty we found with council pitches are there are no changing facilities.

“The council playing fields we were asked to play on were Soldiers Field and the changing facilities were poor at best. The playing surface was in the same conditions as it was when I played on it over 30 years ago and I think they still use the same grass cutters.

“Because of the problems we struck up a relationship with Gledhow Sports and Social Club. With the team playing in the Gledhow area and becoming more popular with the local community we felt it was appropriate to change our name to AFC Gledhow to reflect the community base that we play from.”

It is from that base that AFC Gledhow now proudly sit top of their division with a league title and elevation to the West Riding County Womens Football League Premier very much in the offing.

As he settles into his fifth month of marriage, it’s little wonder the club’s head coach and manager is happy with life on and off the field with further developments of the AFC Gledhow banner highly likely to follow. Sherman beamed: “At present at Gledhow Sports and Social Club we host two sets of junior teams and three adult male teams playing under Yorkshire Amateur Juniors, North East Leeds Girls and Boys, AFC Headingley men’s, Northern Star men’s and Leeds Independent men’s.

“At the moment being a new club everything appears to be very positive and we appear to be going in the right direction given our great start to the season.

“We are building an environment for young girls and women to play football where there is adequate, safe and warm changing facilities, a fully licensed club house and a great friendly atmosphere!”

FACTFILE

FORMED: 2014 (2011 as Wigton Moor Female Football Club).

HOME GROUND: Gledhow Sports And Social Club.

TRAINING FACILITIES: Thomas Danby College.

MANAGER AND HEAD COACH: Colin Sherman.

CHAIRMAN AND COACH: Alvin Mkandla.

CLUB SECRETARY: Samantha Sherman.

CLUB CAPTAIN: Gemma Sayer.

VICE CAPTAIN: Olivia Tyrell.

SPONSORS: Leeds Building Society, Leeds Sport Federation, Catwalk Model Management, Café 71 (on Street Lane), Howden Kitchens, LPD Doors, Gledhow Sports and Social Club.

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