Team of the Week: Kettlethorpe close in on county goal

AFC Kettlethorpe, back from left, Adrian Irving (manager), Joe Penn, Jimmy Turnbull, Kevin Burke, Gavin Exley, Tony Craven, Mark Kershaw, Justin Graham, Robert Biglands, Mick Mander (sponsor). Front, Mustafa Sanneh, Mark Booth, Marcus Bould, Josh Groves, Craig Townsend, Mark Bower.
AFC Kettlethorpe, back from left, Adrian Irving (manager), Joe Penn, Jimmy Turnbull, Kevin Burke, Gavin Exley, Tony Craven, Mark Kershaw, Justin Graham, Robert Biglands, Mick Mander (sponsor). Front, Mustafa Sanneh, Mark Booth, Marcus Bould, Josh Groves, Craig Townsend, Mark Bower.
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THERE is a saying: ‘If you want to get the job done do it yourself.”

The world of football is fast paced and constantly changing. Players come and go so quickly, and clubs can enjoy long periods of success before suddenly succumbing to overnight turmoil.

Clubs at the highest level have shown how instability can lead to struggles both on and off the field. It is the same stability that one local club was determined never to endure.

When AFC Kettlethorpe entered the Wakefield and District FA League in 2012, club founder Tony Craven had a vision for what he wanted to achieve. It was a vision he knew required a helping hand. The man who Craven knew could provide Kettlethorpe with the structure it needed, is Adrian Irving. Taking over the responsibilities of team manager, club chairman, and club secretary, Irving has provided the stability and success required on and off the field for Kettlethorpe, allowing Craven to focus on playing duties as well as oversee other ventures all leading towards Kettlethorpe’s ultimate goal – county league football.

“I was not involved with the club from the very beginning. I was brought in to the club in 2013 by Tony,” said Irving.

“Tony has been the main person in setting up the club. He contacted the initial group of players and brought them in.

“The club was formed by getting the local lads together. They were all playing in different Sunday League teams, and it was formed in very much the same way as any local club is formed, local lads getting together.”

Kettlethorpe’s football history began with a hard-fought loss away from home in the bottom division of the League. It was not the ideal start for the team. A mixed bag of results over the next few weeks saw the team sitting mid-table just before the start of December. With the season moving quickly into a crucial period, the team found a second wind and won 13 of their remaining 15 games – and they secured promotion on the final day.

Having secured promotion at their first attempt, Kettlethorpe were ready to prove that they were a club on a mission and not one-hit wonders.

Irving had taken over the managerial duties at the club and he brought with him a clear and simple philosophy: One in all in.

His tenure has not been without difficulty after the team lost a few players due to work commitments.

“The team, as any Saturday or Sunday League team, has players who come and go. I inherited a good bunch of lads but also had to bring in players. I have brought in players from my own networks, players I know or who I have worked with before, and that includes players from outside the Kettlethorpe network.

“I’ve had to take Kettlethorpe out of Kettlethorpe in a sense.

“To grow it to that next level, to take the club to county level, we have had to bring in players from a higher standard.”

Despite having to make changes there was no task too daunting for Irving and his team as they romped to second place in Division Two, missing out on the title by one point, but securing promotion to Division One.

A few slip-ups in Division One were not enough to deter the team as they once again secured promotion to become part of the Premier Division for season 2015/16.

Irving has been absolutely delighted by his team’s success, but him and Craven have ideas for Kettlethorpe to continue the success and grow the club.

“Our goal over the next two to three years is to have a reserve team. We want to build the club to where we have the main team playing in the West Yorkshire League, and we can have a reserve team playing at the current level.”

Kettlethorpe has recently been the recipient of a £20,000 grant from the Football Foundation, and the money has been put straight back into the club with a restructure of the home ground and its facilities.

“We have applied for entry in to the West Yorkshire League, but we need to satisfy the ground requirements.

“We’ve just had brand new changing rooms built. We had the plumbing fitted, and the pitch is being made wider.”

Newly revamped changing rooms and better facilities at the ground will allow the club to meet the requirements for achieving acceptance in to the West Yorkshire League. The restructure of the club and the grant will allow Kettlethorpe to not only take the main team to the next level, but also allow the club to develop a strong youth structure.

“We are looking to bring a youth team through. Part of our grant is about giving back to the local community. A promise we’ve made is to bring young children and younger teams through and build a network. You are looking at under-7s all the way through to the open age group.”

With all the promise and excitement for the future, Irving is remaining concentrated firmly on the present.

“This season the target is a top-three or top-four finish.

“It would be nice to have a good cup run and finish off the season with a trophy and have some success this year.

“It would be unrealistic to say we are going to win it, but certainly the lads that I have got in this team wont give in. They have got the attitude to dig in and they have an attitude of bleeding before they stop.”

With much to look forward to for the club, Irving was quick to praise those who have supported the club through the years, allowing them to achieve the levels they have in such a short time.

“We have had a lot of support and this year we have two big sponsors with Recruitment Driven Training putting a lot into the club.

“Premier Shops have also come on as a shirt sponsor this season. The Kettlethorpe Hotel has been there since day one and Marie Downes deserves all the thanks she can get.

“She has been with the team for the last five or six years and looked after the team after every single game providing meals and looking after the lads.”

With high ambitions and a dedicated team behind them, AFC Kettlethorpe have built a club that will look to leave a lasting legacy, not just in the Kettlethorpe area, but in the whole county. With a revamped home ground, the club will be looking forward to the promise of playing in the West Yorkshire League next season.

There is a long-term plan in place, and Kettlethorpe will soon be able to boast teams at all levels providing a strong base for young local talent to develop and rise through the ranks of football to the very highest levels.


Founded: 2011

Division: Wakefield and District FA League Premier Division

Ground: Hendal Lane

Chairman: Adrian Irving

Secretary: Adrian Irving

Team Manager: Adrian Irving

Captain: Tony Craven

Sponsors: Recruitment Driven Training, Premier Shops, and Kettlethorpe Hotel

Facebook: Afc Kettlethorpe