Team of the Week: Cookridge Hall hoping for a hale and hearty future

Team of The Week: Cookridge Hall FC,back from left, Joe Hall, Paul Scott, Andrew Dougal, Jamie Moj, Andy Kearsley, Andy McGarth, Jake Wilde, Ben Fisher and Matt Proctor. Front, Jon O'Leary, Dan Cole, Andy Callaghan, Antoni Winnik, Colin Schofield, James Heels, manager Stephen Bull and Andy Maltas. PIC: James Hardisty (JH1007/77c).
Team of The Week: Cookridge Hall FC,back from left, Joe Hall, Paul Scott, Andrew Dougal, Jamie Moj, Andy Kearsley, Andy McGarth, Jake Wilde, Ben Fisher and Matt Proctor. Front, Jon O'Leary, Dan Cole, Andy Callaghan, Antoni Winnik, Colin Schofield, James Heels, manager Stephen Bull and Andy Maltas. PIC: James Hardisty (JH1007/77c).
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Considering two of their stalwarts played for the same junior team as James Milner, this year’s highs at Cookridge Hall FC should not surprise.

Boss Stephen Bull, though, says success has not always been so forthcoming, annoyingly for a boss who likes a party and would like his side to be a bit more sociable.

“But I do like a drink so that’s why!” he laughs.

It could be perfect then that promotion to the Wharfedale Triangle League Premier leads to the perfect celebration at Woodies Ale House.

Formed in 2006 as Horsforth All Saints in a nod to the local university, Cookridge Hall today take their name from the local gym and golf course which gave the club some start-up money upon its relaunch in 2011.

Both Bull and club founder Andrew Callaghan played for the same junior team as Manchester City and England star Milner in Westbrook Juniors and four years on from adopting a new name, Cookridge Hall are enjoying success at their own level as well.

Yet CSI Group sales internal account manager Bull says that his side have not always been Cook-ing on gas.

Bull told the YEP: “There’s not been too many highs apart from this season and the good run we’re on.

“We’ve only lost one game since September and that was to Sky Bet the other week who, in my opinion, will win the league and they’ll do well in the division above as well.

“Hopefully we can join them.

“My first season in charge in was the 12-13 season and that was decent and we finished mid table and had quite a settled team.

“But the 13-14 season was one to forget.

“I used 39 players and we finished second bottom with only four wins all season, it tested me to the limit and if I’m honest I could have walked away.

“I was helped last season by Mark Dickinson who’s a bit of a legend at here Cookridge Hall FC.

“He helped me out loads last season, even played a few games while Anthony Hey helped me in the first season looking after the finance.

Two years later it all adds up to success at a club based at Bedquilts at Adel and backed by Cookridge Hall Health and Fitness Club on Cookridge Lane.

The club were initially formed in 2006 as Horsforth All Saints by current 31-year-old vice-captain Callaghan – a former Westbrook Junior who was plying his trade for Horsforth Rangers who had an A and B side.

Callaghan decided to set up his own team and took on the B side which became Horsforth All Saints in reference to the local university – Trinity & All Saints.

The financial support of Cookridge Hall prompted a name change in 2011 with Bull then taking the managerial reins in 2012.

Bull, another former Westbrook Junior, went on to play bits and pieces of open age football before managing Horsforth Town from 2008 until 2011 – his education at which is not forgotten.

Today he is also Cookridge Hall’s chairman and secretary – winning Wharfedale League Secretary of the season last season – with the 33-year-old also taking training every Tuesday on the 3G surface at Trinity & All Saints College.

Taking the kit to the laundrette and attending regular league meetings are also on the to-do list of a manager grateful for his managerial induction at Horsforth Town – as well as the support of Cookridge Hall stalwarts around him.

Bull said: “I need to make a special mention to Allan and Pauline Stevens who are nothing to do with Cookridge Hall but when I first got into Sunday League management it was with Horsforth Town and Allan and Pauline were the people who looked after the club while I took training and picked the team.

“They taught me what it takes to run a club and that if you aren’t the best on the park, then be a well-run club off it and Cookridge Hall FC are for sure.

“Apart from the players, I now run Cookridge Hall from top to bottom really.

“I go to all the league meetings although Jon O’Leary and Andy Maltas go if I can’t as these lads know what it takes to run a Sunday league team.

“It’s a hard task and if I’m honest I don’t think people realise how much of my time it takes.

“Hopefully I do a good job.

“I don’t think anyone is left from when Andy started the team but the senior lads who’ve been around a long time help me out and I’m not afraid to ask people for their opinions.

“Andy McGrath is my captain and helps out with taking the balls etc home with him.

“Also, I must mention our sponsors, they gave us £400 for a new kit two seasons ago and have been a real help. Simon is the man who helped us there.”

That kit has now been worn to eight league victories this term with Cookridge Hall now having six games left in which to try and seal promotion. Bull admits elevation to the Premier would be a proud moment for a man who was outshone by his two older brothers Paul, 38, and Andy, 37 as a footballer.

“My brothers were the better at football than me but I hope I’m doing all right at management!” said Bull.

“Maybe I’ve ended up the better manager but they didn’t try management!

“I’m enjoying being manager and I keep the stats of every game – who played, how many minutes etc – and keep a stat of my managerial record which, up to writing, is over two clubs.

“My brothers just watch Leeds these days but Paul played for a very successful Rawdon Sunday team who won loads in the Wharefdale Triangle League.”

It could be that his younger brother is now about to do the same at Cookridge Hall, but Bull is refusing to get carried away, sticking to the old adage of one game at a time with next Sunday’s trip to Milford next on the agenda.

There is however, no denying that promotion would lead to the perfect party at the club’s HQ of Woodies Ale House – with Bull as keen on life on the pitch at Cookridge Hall as off it, or in the bar.

Assessing the club’s future, Bull mused: “The aims are to keep on going this season and see where it takes us, just win as many games as we can. It sounds obvious but football is a simple game, don’t complicate it.

“We enjoy going back to Woodies Ale House in Headingley for our food after the home games, it’s a great pub and JJ – the manager – sorts us out.

“We just keep on going off the field, I’d like the lads to be a bit more social – but I do like a drink – so that’s why!”

Fact file

Founded: 2006 (as Horsforth All Saints)

Ground: Bedquilts, Adel Lane, Lane

Division: Wharfedale Traingle League Division One.

Manager, chairman and secretary: Stephen Bull.

Founder and vice captain: Andrew Callaghan.

Captain: Andy McGrath.

Training: Tuesdays at Trinity & All Saints College.

Social Headquarters: Woodies Ale House, Headingley.

Claim to fame: Manager and founder played for same junior club as James Milner (Westbrook Juniors).