THE West Yorkshire League representative side will serve England in Europe next term after becoming national champions in the FA Inter League Cup.
A September jaunt to Romania in the UEFA Regions Cup is next with joint-manager John Flynn, declaring: “there’s a lot bigger and better things to come.”
The WYL side’s Inter League Cup dream looked over back in February when the White Rose men suffered a narrow 3-2 loss in the semi-finals against the Spartan South Midlands team.
Yet the West Yorkshire outfit were handed a dramatic reprieve when the Midlands side were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in Nathan ‘De Lick’ Graham - formerly of West Ham.
The WYL team were subsequently jettisoned into last Sunday’s final against the Teeside League, who beat the Southern Amateur League side in their semi-final.
But the Teeside team had no answers to their Yorkshire counterparts who secured a thrilling 3-2 victory at Bootham Crescent as Danny Cunningham’s 94th-minute winner made the Yorkshire team national champions and sealed progression to the UEFA Regions Cup.
“This is without doubt the biggest competition these lads will ever play and it’s been a long hard road that started in Sunderland in April 2015,” said Flynn.
“We’ve played the Wearside League, the Yorkshire Amateur League, the West Cheshire League, the Cambridgeshire League and the Spartan South Midland League and I must say a big thank you to everyone who has played in these games and to all the clubs who have supported this competition by releasing their players. I have always said that if everyone cooperated and the team was a true reflection of how strong the West Yorkshire League is, we would do very well. This has proved to be the case.”
Tom Greaves had initially given the WYL team a first-minute lead from a goalmouth scramble but Teesside soon levelled and White Rose keeper Steve Kerr was to thank for keeping the scores level at the break.
The West Yorkshire side went back in front three minutes after the restart when Aiden Day converted a penalty after Reece Fennell was fouled but extra-time looked imminent when Teeside levelled from a corner two minutes later.
Yet come the fourth minute of injury time, Cunningham coolly rounded the goalkeeper after great work from Matty Moon.
“It was a really special day for everyone involved,” beamed Flynn.
“We got treated like professionals and I’m sure everyone felt they have achieved something truly unique as amateur footballers. After speaking to guys from the FA it seems there are a lot bigger and better things to come.”
“We were told that we aren’t West Yorkshire League players anymore, we are England players!”
The jubilant team will now play a friendly against the Irish Champions and 2014-15 UAFA Regions Cup winners in Dublin in August before jetting off for their own UEFA Regions Cup in September in Romania.
Matches against Russia, Serbia and the host nation will follow as part of a three team qualifying group with the winners going into the quarter-finals, to be played in 2017.
“The FA will be providing all the kits, training kits, coaches, team doctor, physio and general manager, not to mention all travel expenses,” said Flynn.
“All the lads just can’t believe it. “The only down side is we can only take 18 players, we had 20 there on Saturday so someone’s going to be disappointed. “We will be wearing three lions on our shirts, how good is that?”
Pictured top right are the West Yorkshire League Representative Team (back row, left to right): Jordan Parkin (physio), John Flynn (manager), Nicky Johnson (coach/asst manager), Joe Tasker (Leeds City), Barrie Frankland (Leeds City), Aidan Day (Field), Steve Kerr (Beeston St Ants), Matthew Moon (Beeston St Ants), Tom Greaves (Carlton Ath), Darryll Leach (capt, Field), Andy Payne (Carlton Ath), Adam Dutson (Leeds City), Mally Hill-(coach/asst manager). Front row (left to right): Sam Graham (Carlton Ath), Craig Maynard (Carlton Ath), Danny Cunningham (Field), Reece Fennell (Carlton Ath), Steve Crawford (Beeston St Ants), Danny Nolan (Field), Lee Coleman (Beeston St Anths).