Bay Athletic have won the county amateur Premier Division six times since 2005 and have a chance of landing a seventh. Lee Sobot reports.
AS the final month of the County Amateur League season nears a conclusion, Bay Athletic find themselves in familiar territory; title contention.
This is, after all, a club that have scooped the Premier Division’s top prize on six occasions since 2006, including a record-breaking four times in succession between 2008 and 2011.
Ovenden West Riding are out to stop Bay bagging another pot and their seventh top flight title in 2014.
But however the current season’s title battle evolves, Bay will be back for another bid for glory next season with proud secretary Kevin Burns admitting his club’s first team have found their haven in the County Amateur Premier.
Reigning Premier Division champions Bay kept alive their hopes of retaining their crown with Saturday’s thrilling 4-3 success at home to title rivals Ovenden West Riding.
Jordan Coduri, Andrew Bailey and John Booth all netted for Ovenden but one strike apiece from Brighton Mugadza, Nathan James, Mat Mulvihill and Nick Jagger gave the hosts all three points.
It means a seventh league title could be in the offing, clearly suggesting that Bay could operate at a higher level and be ready for the demands of a new challenge.
But Burns says his men are happy where they are, and, in any case, this year’s bid for glory remains out of their hands.
Even if Bay win their two games in hand, Ovenden, who sit top of the league, will still hold a one-point lead.
Unlike last year, Athletic might have to settle for second best.
But whatever the outcome of this year’s title race, proud secretary Burns is in no mood to complain. After all, following six title wins since 2006, it could be argued that it’s someone else’s turn, not that Bay will be relenting lightly.
Burns beamed: “I have been at Bay as a player, manager and secretary for 32 years now and I am so proud of the clubs’ achievements and stature amongst other clubs in West Yorkshire. And at the moment the future is staying in the West Riding League. We have considered the West Yorkshire League but we are staying put for the foreseeable future. You need massive financial backing to go higher, which we haven’t got.”
Bay may lack in massive financial backing but in Martin Sykes they have a local businessman who sponsors them every season. And now the club also has a new home at Northfield Hall on Norfolk Avenue, in Brackenhall, Huddersfield, a facility run by the Brackenhall Community Trust. Burns enthused: “The ground is fantastic now.
“We have had a brand new pitch installed but have had a lot of drainage problems with the winter we have had. Hopefully we have got it sorted now. The clubhouse is brand new and has its own cafe run by the Trust.”
There is plenty to celebrate in that cafe as part of a club formed back in 1972 by Tommy Mowatt, a local from the area. The club adopted the name of Bay Athletic as they were based at the Bay Horse pub in Oakes, Huddersfield. The team started life in the Huddersfield and District League but finally made the transition to the West Riding County Amateur League in 1995. And the rise to the top was a quick one with Athletic winning the Division Two title in 1997 followed by the Division One championship and promotion to the Premier in 1998.
Bay have been there ever since – and more often than not winning it. A proud Burns recalled: “We have won the Premier League title six times, being the first team to ever win it four times in succession from 2008 to 2011.
“We have also won the Huddersfield District Cup the last four seasons and we won the West Riding Cup in 2011 then the Northern National Cup in 2012. I would be very surprised if there are any other amateur teams around who have won so many trophies. The best ever Bay team we had was in 2011. A lot of those players went higher to Brighouse Town after that so we had rebuild again, which we have done successfully.”
Bay certainly boast an impressive roll of honour and the club’s secretary says an important theme in the Athletic’s success has been the strategy of promoting from within. Key to the glories of the last decade was the appointment of Richard Spychalski as manager in 2003 – Spychalski being a former Bay player. Spychalski remained first team boss until deciding to take a break from football – and a break from Bay after 32 years of involvement. But now another former player is at the helm in the shape of Marcus Mitchell.
“We always like to promote managers from within the club,” said Burns, who himself moved up from the second team to assist Spychalski in 2005. “A special mention should also go to our chairman Martin Byrne who has been at Bay for over 30 years and sponsors both the first and second team kits. Then there’s Archie Moore and Graham McLachlan who have been at club for 15 years and also do a great deal off the pitch or behind the scenes.”
Now a new ingredient is about to be added to the Bay recipe through the introduction of an under-17s side. Burns explained: “We now have strong links with Deighton Junior Football Club who are also based at the ground. This is a fantastic set up run by a gentleman called Basil Richards – an ex-Huddersfield Giants rugby player. He is a fantastic man who devotes loads of time and effort into the Deighton and Brackenhall Community. Moving forwards, next season we are entering an under-17s team but they will be called Deighton Juniors. Then the season after they will be our reserves.”
They will join one of the most successful clubs in the area and one out to secure an incredible seventh County Amateur League crown in 2013-14. Yet Burns knows that given their commanding lead, the title is Ovenden West Riding’s to squander.
“We still need them to draw or lose one of their last two games,” he said. “It’s theirs to lose.”
Or Bay Athletic’s to win – for a magnificent seventh time since 2006.