We have all surprised ourselves after a few drinks. Sometimes for the better, often for the worse.
However Micky Harrison surpassed all expectations after he walked into the Dalesman Hotel pub one afternoon and walked out later that evening having formed a football club.
Naturally taking its name from its birthplace, Dalesman Hotel FC has just finished its first season of competitive Sunday league football. Harrison is no longer involved with the running of the club, but thankfully he had a more than capable right hand man in Jon Scott, who is now the metaphorical club landlord.
Scott jokes: “I started out as just the manager but have ended up being kit man, bottle man, physio and net man. Micky Harrison was involved at first but I’m starting to suspect he must be a good mate of Massimo Cellino because he went missing a third of the way through the season!
“All things considering, I would say everything has run smoothly for our first attempt at setting up a team.”
The North Leeds club, who stage their home games at Butcher Hill playing fields, were somewhat thrown in at the deep end. Competing in what is fast becoming known as one of the toughest Sunday leagues not only in Yorkshire but in the whole country, the Leeds Combination League, Scott’s side finished bottom of Division Three.
In truth it is an achievement in itself just how competitive the team were. Despite not once being able to name the same eleven for two consecutive matches, they finished just three points behind their nearest rivals, West Leeds, and had a far superior goal difference.
They were rarely on the end of the kind of cricket score with which Sunday League football can be dogged by. While it took them twelve games to secure their maiden victory, once that landmark was reached, a 3-0 success over Wortley Brick, they want on a three-match winning streak and both results and performance picked up.
There is clearly talent in the squad with Daniel Hudson scoring six times in only ten appearances and Daniel Lock hitting the back of the net four times in six games. Should they be able to name a regular side on a consistent basis then next season they could easily be a surprise package.
Away from the league the club really showed their potential on the pitch with some encouraging performances in the cup competitions. These include a remarkable run to the final of the Extra Cup in which results such as a 2-2 draw with Pendas Arms and 3-1 triumph over Horsforth Saints, two team who ply their trade in higher divisions, caught the eye. Ultimately they were beaten 3-1 in the final by Kippax Band Club, who only missed out on the Division Three title on goal difference.
Reflecting on the season, Scott admits: “For a first season it has not been the best. We have played some good football but in the end too many silly mistakes cost us too many games. The standard was good throughout the league.
“There was obviously a bit of difference between the top and bottom teams but we’ll learn from this season and go again next year stronger for it.
“We’ve had several captains and I wouldn’t think it was right to single out any one player as our star man. Especially towards the end of the season when we all played well. The high point was definitely getting to the Extra Cup final. Unfortunately we lost to Kippax when we gave them a great game and could and probably should have come off winners.
“They are not necessarily our rivals but the best and most enjoyable games we have had this season have been against Kippax. Both teams were committed in the tackle, there was none of this Premier League diving about and then we all shook hands after the game and had banter with each other like you could do in the old days.”
It would have been easy for the players and coach to have become disheartened by their final league placing at the end of their first campaign and call it a day. However Scott insists the team will continue in the Leeds Combination League next season and they will be better for their experiences of their inaugural year. With the aim of avoiding the wooden spoon, he acknowledges the need for more players and also confirmed that the club are looking for sponsors. While the aim is to thrive on the pitch, the social side of the game will always be the most important to Scott and his players. This has helped contribute to the highs as well of the lows of their first season, and has also aided in forming some useful alliances between clubs.
Scott says: “I have to thank Dave Beck at Queenswood Rangers and Phil Pogson of Kirkstall Crusaders for all the help at the beginning of the season with the team. Dave kindly gave us a kit and Phil kindly gave us nets and a corner flag.
“The lowest point has probably been not playing the same team two weeks in row as sometimes players just couldn’t make it to a game. The reason we couldn’t was that if it wasn’t injuries it was alcohol-related.
“I know it’s Sunday football but I think nearly every player turned up once still drunk, and more weeks than I care to remember several players turned up still drunk. It was a good laugh and at the end of the season we ended up playing some good football.
“There wasn’t going to be a second season but the lads asked me to do it again so like an idiot I agreed. It isn’t just about the football.
“Even when we got spanked early on in the season we still had a great laugh afterwards in the pub. Win, lose or draw we still turned up every week and had a good go and by the end you could see how far we had progressed.”
Founder: Micky Harrison
Home ground: Butcher Hill Playing Fields
Manager: Jon Scott
League: Leeds Combination Division Three
Achievements: Extra Cup Competition Runners Up
Top Scorer: Daniel Hudson