ROOKIE boss Wayne Woods has few natural ties to the village of Barwick-in-Elmet whose West Yorkshire League football team he manages.
The Seacroft-raised council tractor driver lives 10 miles away in Harehills and is more associated with inner city Leeds clubs such as Corpus Christi.
Yet after answering Barwick’s SOS call, the club formed way back in 1902 has proved infectious, so much so that the 28-year-old is leading a Leeds revolution in Barwick after turning down a move back to his former team.
Former Crossgates Primary and Braim Wood High School pupil Woods had zero connection to Barwick this time last season, but for having been a former team-mate of Barwick-in-Elmet residents John Robinson and his father Charles in the days of Boston Spartans FC.
Several years on, John had become secretary for the club representing the village he resided in, with striker Woods operating in the Leeds Red Triangle League with Travellers FC, Seacroft WMC, Harehills Liberal Club and most recently Corpus Christi.
But last summer’s demise of the Leeds Red Triangle League amidst troubled times at Barwick has brought Robinson and Woods back together at a club now enjoying a new lease of life under their young manager.
Woods was approached by Barwick’s secretary –who was also last season’s joint-manager alongside Richard Fearby – in the hope of rescuing a club who were perennially finishing in the bottom half of Division Two of the West Yorkshire League.
Last season yielded just 17 points and a second-bottom finish. One year on, a new-look Barwick who play from the village’s parish council-owned Chapel Lane ground are ninth and not entirely out of the promotion race.
At the same time, Woods’ former club Corpus Christi are preparing for life in the new inaugural Leeds Combination League’s Saturday League – but Woods says he’s started a new chapter at Barwick and is keen for that story to continue.
Former scaffolder Woods told the YEP: “I won the league last year with Corpus Christi and there were three games left and I went up to Barwick to help out.
“I just got asked by John Robinson who was there as I got to know him and his dad Charles when I was at Boston Spartans when I was about 17.
“I didn’t expect to go there as manager – I thought I’d just be a player and help out but it ended being a manager role. I didn’t want to do it originally I just wanted to go and play at a better level and a better standard of football. But I didn’t hesitate to go because you always want to play against better players to better yourself.
“There’s been no stability there at all for the last two seasons – no consistency with the side which every week has been makeshift.
“They needed somebody else in or they wouldn’t have been going much longer.
“The last two years they have finished near enough the bottom of the table. Things had been pretty slow. But we have got a load of new faces in and we’ve just gone from there. I have just brought who I can in and we have just benefitted really. It’s a fair distance for me to Barwick every weekend – it’s up York Road but it’s commitment isn’t it and that’s what it’s about.
“Most of my players are from around Leeds, they are not from Barwick and I’ve got people who live in Harehills, Alwoodley, Shadwell, Seacroft, Gipton, Chapeltown and we have all just come together. We are committed to getting up to Barwick to play football.”
That commitment is reaping rewards with Barwick up to the dizzy heights of seventh and their reserve team looking forward to a cup final.
The club’s newly formed Sunday side are also going great guns in the Leeds Combination League Premier Division under John Ward.
And there’s plenty of components playing their part in the Barwick renaissance, not least the input and financial backing of sponsors the Gascoigne Arms under land-lady Debbie Lacey and partner Shaun Fountain – the village pub which acts as the club’s social headquarters.
Players Adam McShane, Chris Bussue and captain Seb Brownrigg all play their part in combining to fulfil the assistant-manager’s role. Woods’ wife Stacey helps with cleaning changing rooms with Woods naturally playing a big part in marking out the pitch given his role as a parks tractor driver/grass cutter for Leeds City Council who his wife is also a kitchen assistant for. The couple’s seven-year-old daughter Tegan plays her part by cheering on the sidelines but another key influence has been Woods’ former manager at Corpus Christi, Dermot Grimes. After a year out, Grimes is now preparing to take Corpus Christi into the new look Leeds Combination Saturday League and has already approached Woods about a possible return.
Yet Barwick’s new boss has vowed to stay loyal to his new surroundings. Leeds United fan Woods explained: “When I was at Corpus the manager there was Dermot Grimes and he’s a bit ruthless is Dermot.
“He doesn’t take no prisoners and he says it as is. I’ve just watched him and gone from there really – say what you think and don’t care what anybody else thinks. You’re in charge and I try and be honest.
“Corpus Christi were going to go into the Selby League but they had a year out because they heard the Combination was setting up the coming season.
“They’ve had a year out and they are going again in the summer and Dermot has asked me to go back. But I’m going to be loyal to my lads and stay at Barwick.”
The two clubs may yet arrange a pre-season friendly – after which Woods admits there will be a “good drink” afterwards – quite possibly in the manager’s home-away-from-home in the Gascoigne Arms. Reflecting on how much he is enjoying management at Barwick, Woods added: “It’s good and for a 28- year-old to get a shot managing a team anywhere is hard enough anyway. To get one in the West Yorkshire is really good. I’m comfy and the lads have put a lot on this year and want to see us do even better next year.
“They are saying imagine what we are going to be like next year because I’ve got a couple of young lads in Paul Driffield and Dan Thorpe who are only 17 and 19-years-old. We’re only going to get better.
“Every Saturday is enjoyable here – win, lose or draw. We have a couple of pints and go again the week after. To know that people in the pub are backing you and want to see you do well at Barwick when you’re not from round there is all right!”