Team of the Week: It’s fun to play for the Leeds YMCA

Team of the Week: Leeds YMCA
Team of the Week: Leeds YMCA
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We’ve all been there.

You get to your ground on a Sunday ready to release your inner-Ronaldo only to realise you have left your football boots at home.

Cue spending the next 90 minutes quite literally struggling to get a foothold in the game, nervously slipping around the pitch like Bambi on ice.

This problem used to give Leeds YMCA chairman Mark Lumley a headache.

During the club’s formative years they would often turn up to matches not only with eight players, but some of those players would be bootless.

To the players’ credit it wasn’t down to carelessness or forgetfulness, but it was because some of them had never played 11-a-side football before.

Thankfully this situation is now long gone, and the club sits proudly atop of the Leeds Sunday Alliance League.

And should their impressive form continue, they are set to win their maiden Premier Division title.

Lumley still remembers those early days clearly, but is happy to use them as evidence of how far the side have come.

“It all goes back to when Rob Crompton and some school friends set up a team called Parkland Colts in North Leeds about 10 years ago,” he says.

“Over time the name has changed a couple of times, first to Queenswood Rangers and two years ago we became Leeds YMCA.

“I took over running the team from Rob about six years ago and now run it alongside Kyle Elliott.

“The early days were tough when we first started turning out without a full team.

“All the players wanted to play as strikers and we were shockingly disorganised looking back.

“Since then though several players have stuck with it and are some of our best players now.”

The team linked up with the Leeds YMCA on Otley Road after Lumley realised the perfect facilities which were there to base their headquarters.

After he “badgered” the YMCA committee for two years an agreement was eventually met, hence the change of name.

Lumley suggests that this partnership is one of the main reasons behind their recent success, which includes triumphing in both League One and a cup victory in the Division One Trophy last season.

He says: “We now have access to one of the few grounds properly maintained in terms of grass cut, pitches rolled and working changing rooms.

“Also they have posts up for longer than the council pitches which means we are able to generate some funds from playing games to offset costs.

“At the start of each season teams struggle to build up funds and friendlies with players paying subs one of the few ways to build up a bit of money.

“This year we missed quite a bit of pre-season and we didn’t play well in first few games, but we knew once we got going we would be ok as we have built up a strong team approach.

“We keep running and passing for 90 minutes.

“We train on the best artificial pitch in Leeds which means we can really develop and hone that side of our game.

“We train with a lot of two-touch and emphasis on working for the players around you, trying to play the same football in the last third as we play in the middle of the park.

“It’s more enjoyable to play compared to getting whiplash standing in midfield watching people lump the ball over your head, also as a 47-year-old in open-age football, if I can pass the ball, it saves my legs!

That method has evidently worked a treat so far this year, under the management of Elliott the side have lost only one of their 17 league games, winning 14 and drawing twice.

They sit four points ahead of second-placed Gascoigne, who Lumley expected to be their main rivals this season.

Asked about the talent among his ranks and Lumley is bold in his assessment, obviously proud of the talent that is representing the club.

Although there is still one problem that he would like to see addressed, he has interesting and insightful views on the game as a whole.

“Ask anyone who has played against him, our captain Pete Hill is one of the best players in Leeds,” he says.

“Kier Elliott at centre-back is solid and chips in with a few goals when he gets out of bed in time!

“Goals and running power come from James Acornley, Mark Beattie and Danny Walker, while Conor Walsh provides the best range of passing in the league.

“Like most adult teams we don’t have any sponsorship.

“A few of us end up chipping in money to keep us afloat each year.

“Sadly the reality for grassroots football beyond the age of 15 is it has largely been abandoned by the FA for the last 20 years.

“Declining numbers of players, no proper veterans’ leagues, high costs for pitches, kit, balls, training, compulsory insurance, referee fees and the FA charge you to affiliate and participate.

“They then levy fines on teams and players, a substantial part of their income. Most of the money the FA get from sponsorship, fans, junior team fines and team subs seems to go on massive national centres and paying for Wembley.

“So at national level I think they are doomed to failure as they have the wrong focus.

“If they want a national team and youth development to be proud of they have to emphasise the fun involved and get people wanting to kick a ball about.

“The thousands of hours of kicking a ball against a wall, or having a kick about with your mates or doing keepy-uppies matter as much if not more than coaching.”

Should the club continue their form this season and win the title, it will be a perfect end to Kyle Elliot’s time as manager as he is leaving at the end of the season and will move to Germany where he will work at sportwear giants adidas as Global Influencer Manager.

It’s something that fills Lumley with pride: “From managing Leeds YMCA to global influence in one easy step!”

Fact File

Team: Leeds YMCA

Headquarters: Leeds YMCA, Otley Road

Chairman: Mark Lumley

Manager: Kyle Elliot

Captain: Pete Hill

League: Leeds Sunday Alliance Premier Division

Position: 1st

Past honours: League One title, Division One Trophy

Rivals: Bramley, Commercial, Gascoigne