Oulton Athletic have lost every league game this season but the nomads are confident they can show bouncebackability. Lee Sobot reports.
PLAYED 15, lost 15, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Oulton Athletic were a Sunday league football club on the wane.
Yet on the contrary, manager Dave Beane says the future couldn’t be brighter.
In Beane’s eyes, after this season’s inevitable relegation, the only way is up.
Oulton prop up Division One of the Leeds Combination League which they recently joined after conquering the Leeds Sunday Alliance. And a switch in league has not been the only change at a club first formed as Angel Rothwell in 1999.
During their 15-year history, Beane’s team have also been known as Rosebud Inn and AFC Waggon, plying their trade at various pitches in Leeds – including Robin Hood Athletic’s ground last term. But it is at Oulton and Woodlesford Sports And Social Club – and as Oulton Athletic FC – that Beane says his men are now perfectly settled and in better shape than initially meets the eye.
Beane – who has played for the club since 1999 – admits there is no hiding from his side’s league record but the boss is keen to stress that his team have often been edged out by a single goal.
The 37-year-old also says his men are playing one league higher than they should be following last season’s reprieve from relegation. And, while a win of any sorts has been elusive in the league, Athletic were only one win away from making it to a cup final this season in the Leeds FA Sunday District Cup.
It means there is more to Oulton Athletic than meets the eye, with Beane confident his side’s promise will become much more evident in 2014-15. “This season has obviously been hard but we should have been relegated last season,” he said.
“But the leagues rebalanced so we ended up staying in the same division. The teams we were playing last season were better than us and we ended up staying with them but it’s been one of those seasons where we have not had massive, heavy defeats. We are nearly there or thereabouts but it’s just not quite clicking.
“We got through to the semi-finals of the Leeds and District Cup so we have won cup games and we have done all right in the cups but we just can’t buy a win in the league basically!
“So it’s not been all complete and utter doom and gloom this season but I’m not saying we don’t deserve to be where we are because we do. It’s just one of those things where the team of players I have currently got aren’t at the right standard and consistency for this division.
“We need to go down really to then rebuild and start sort of enjoying football again. But we’re a strong unit and we’re quite resilient.
“Yes, we’ve had a couple of seasons where we’ve not done too well but I’ve probably only lost two or three players to not enjoying it any more. But we’re still going, we’re still getting numbers and hopefully next season I’ve got a couple of other lads coming in that will add to the quality. We’re hoping we can bounce straight back basically.”
If so, few would take greater satisfaction than Beane who – along with 31-year-old brother Peter – has been with the club since day one. Phil Raw, Mike Fitzgerald and Richard Jackson were the club’s original founders, with Angel Rothwell based at the Angel Inn in Rothwell.
From there the team moved to the Rosebud Inn in Carlton before becoming AFC Waggon, based at the Waggon And Horses pub on Wakefield Road.
It was as AFC Waggon that the club enjoyed their most successful spell, winning the Leeds Sunday Alliance but Beane is now hopeful of a solid and consistent future as Oulton Athletic at Oulton and Woodlesford Social Club.
“This is our 15th year but we’ve had a few different guises over the years,” he said. “We’ve moved around a little bit. We were originally formed as Angel Rothwell out of the Angel pub and we were originally in the league that became the Sunday Alliance League. We were in that for 12 years and then a few years ago we just decided that we needed a new challenge and moved into the Combination League.
“That was about the time that we changed names and moved down to Oulton and Woodlesford Sports and Social which is also the base for Oulton Raiders Rugby Club and the Oulton Cricket Club.
“There’s all sorts going on down there now – there’s Oulton ladies team as well and the kids junior football team and it’s a very good set-up. There’s good facilities and we are set up now. I can’t see us moving again.
“We’ve been around the block a bit and moved from pub to pub with pubs wanting us and then not wanting us. But we are settled where we are now and we are quite well set up. The club is okay and we are doing all right.
“We have always struggled to get decent pitches over on this side of Leeds but Oulton came along and wanted us, which was great.”
Being settled will certainly suit Beane who is also a busy man away from football. An insurance worker for Direct Line, he and wife Laura are also parents to three-year-old daughter Isabel with a second child on the way at the end of the month. “I’ve certainly got my hands full!” laughed Beane, whose brother Peter – the club’s star player – is out injured.
Beane says the return of his brother next term should spark a change in fortunes, but the Oulton manager is reluctant to set lofty targets, however bubbling his enthusiasm is. The manager is proud of his team’s 15-year history, and task number one is simply to keep the club going.
“An ambitious manager would say that he wants to step up and basically get promoted and go on to win things,” said Beane.
“But I think the thing about being a Sunday league manager is that sometimes it’s just a massive achievement to keep the team going. I think that’s sometimes what it feels like with me and a couple of the guys that have run the team.
“It’s an achievement in itself to actually keep the club afloat and keep all the lads coming down and enjoying it which is basically the primary aim, though the lads won’t want me to say that – they’ll want me to say that we want to win things and we nearly have!
“We came to within one game this season of getting into a cup final where we could have actually won something and that’s in a pretty appalling season.
“I don’t think we’re a million miles away from stepping up.”