Beechwood Gate are a formidable force in the Wakefield League. But with the introduction of Beechwood Sundays, The Rein looks set to host two impressive powerhouses.. Alastair Ross reports.
Whether it be divine intervention or tactical determination, Karl Abbott and Beechwood Sundays are a match made in heaven.
Assisted by Beechwood Gate captain, Stephen Cooper, the two coaches have created a lean, mean, scoring machine which has taken the Leeds Combination League by storm. Scoring 35 goals in seven games, Sundays boast themselves a 100 per cent record.
Members of the Working Men’s Club that house the acclaimed Beechwood Gate (Sat), the Wakefield and District League champions, Abbott and Cooper saw the potential to dominate the local leagues on both days of the weekend.
“Stephen helped me the back of last season finishing off with the [Seacroft] Colts, but meanwhile we were putting the Beachwood stuff together,” said Sundays boss Abbott.
“I already had the basics of a squad with a couple of lads I wanted to bring with me.
“We brought in players we both knew and off it went really.”
But which league to play in was the next major question.
Abbott’s previous young colts had struggled in their division, whilst Beechwood Gate had become a permanent fixture at the top of theirs.
Start too low, you could ruin a division.
Start too high, and your prototype is doomed.
“Mick Bruce was worried we were just going to flood our team with Beechwood Gate knowing how successful they have been. He didn’t want us joining a division and absolutely walking it, it wouldn’t have been fair.” said the Sundays boss.
“We’ve got one or two that play for both. [But] we’ve got a group of lads where it just works for some reason, it’s just clicked.
“Younger lads are coming through, so the older lads are showing them the ropes.
“It’s an absolute dream.” delighted the 31-year-old.
Amongst that dream are duo Liam Gales and Nat Welsh, whose experience on the pitch belies their tender years.
“I call them the senior players of the squad, but they’re in their early twenties. They’ll probably still play for me for the next 10 years if this carries on.”
The team oozes appeal and is complimented by an almost ignorant modesty – the fact that the assistant manager dishes out drinks after the game has a rare, refreshing sense of humility about it.
That’s right, talented Cooper has not two, but three roles at the club, bossing the bar as well as both football teams.
“The footballing brain that lad’s got is unbelievable,” Abbott said of his number two.
“He controls what he needs to on the pitch, along with the team captain, and I control it from the sideline.”
With the heralded success of Gate looming thick overhead, you would be forgiven for thinking that a rivalry was forming.
Two teams in such close proximity, vying for the same fan base in a “one-team town” must surely create some animosity.
Quite the contrary, the manager told me.
“A lot of the Saturday side come down and support! We all have a beer together when we can.” reported Abbott fondly. “It would be nice if we were both heading into the new year challenging for titles and still in the cups we are in.
“It would be nice to see both sides bring silverware back to the Beechwood Club.”
For loyal support however, Abbott needn’t look further than his family – his wife after all is the club secretary.
“My three children have been to home games, been to away games,” he exclaimed.
“We’ve started our own hash tag! #UTB – Up the bears. The Saturday side nicknamed us the Beechwood Bears for some reason and it just stuck.”
But the bears aren’t just trending over Twitter, they’ve hit the airwaves too
“On a random night out in Blackpool, we bumped into Adam from the Capital Breakfast Show, so we got him to give us a shout on Monday morning – he wished us luck” joked the gaffer. “More and more turn up each week to watch us.”
But as charming as the fairytale has been, the relentless Sundays suffered a blot on their otherwise impeccable copybook, being dumped out the FA Sunday District Cup by title rivals East Leeds in a bad-tempered affair after extra time.
It is of no surprise that the losing sensation sat badly with the Beechwood men.
“We owe them one.” bemoaned the manager. “I think if we beat them again in the league and we carry on our form, we might just pip them to the title.”
But the crux of Sundays’ success that has maintained their perfect league record lies in both their unpredictability and versatility, with the side being known to change formation several times during a game.
“We don’t play your conventional 4-4-2 formation, we like to mess about and chop and change.
“I think that’s what fools a lot of the teams, they don’t know how to deal with us.” explained Abbott.
“We can play five at the back, we can play three at the back with wing backs
“I don’t want to give too much away, but we like to try things. We like to try different players in different positions.
“But it’s still a learning curve.”
Come Christmas, both Gate and Sundays are guaranteed top spot in their leagues, with various cups still up for grabs. The two teams celebrated the festive season together last week, hitting the town in seasonal jumpers and watching the boxing together.
The weather may be cold over Christmas, but for Karl Abbott and his Sundays?
Life’s a ‘beech’.
Division: Leeds Combination League Division 2
Manager: Karl Abbott
Captain: Craig Walker
Home Ground: The Rein